Should New York State Provide Recently Released Prisoners With Cash?
Would you support New York State providing newly released incarcerated individuals with state-funded assistance? I know it sounds crazy, and you're probably yelling "no" at your screen right now. But, there's a bill in North Carolina, of all places, to provide former inmates with assistance.
The bill would require the North Carolina Department of Adult Correction to give indigent inmates who are released from prisons monthly stipends to cover housing, food, clothing, and transportation for up to half a year after they are released.
New York actually had a program that was doing something similar, although it looks like it may have ended in 2020 (based on the financial reports on its website). The New York City-based program run by CEO Works was called the Returning Citizens Stimulus. It provided paid job training, job placement, and other support. It appears that the program was privately funded by donors and other sources of funds.
CEO works to reduce recidivism and increase employment. We provide people returning from prison immediate paid employment, skills training, and ongoing career support.
The Returning Citizens Stimulus program distributed more than $24 million.
It is the largest-ever conditional cash transfer to formerly incarcerated individuals.
The program says its goal was to help people re-entering society overcome the financial barriers they often face. For many formerly incarcerated people, having access to money or the lack thereof can make the difference between becoming a productive citizen and returning to criminal activities.
NC House Bill 836 states, in part,
Beginning January 1, 2024, the Division of Community Supervision and Reentry shall provide all indigent individuals released from the custody of the Department of Adult Correction with monthly stipends to be used for housing, food, clothing, and transportation. Monthly stipends provided under this section shall be provided for no more than six months following the release of an individual from the custody of the Department of Adult Correction.
Does Financial Assitance Actually Help People Stay Out Of Prison?
I was today years old when I found out that people who are serving time are still obligated to pay for their debt, student loans, and child support. Even though they have little to no income, those bills don't go away. A person re-entering society, especially if they served time for several years, will walk out of prison free physically, but certainly not financially. By no means am I excusing any criminal behavior, but if a person is already in the hole for thousands of dollars, and they have no help, returning to crime doesn't sound too bad. And considering non-payment of child support can potentially land a person in jail in New York, it could create a cycle.
According to the National Institute of Justice, re-entry support is critical to helping former prisoners become productive citizens,
The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 44% of individuals who left state prison were arrested at least once in their first year after release. Within nine years of release, 5 of 6 of those previously in state prison had been rearrested. The number of people who will reengage with the criminal justice system highlights the critical importance of reentry.