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Restorative justice

Let me commend this Bill King op-ed, about the plight of ex-cons in Texas and the efforts of the Restorative Justice Ministry Network to try and help them re-integrate into society, to you. It’s well worth reading. The issue, and why you should care, in a nutshell:

At the rate we put people in prison in Texas we need to be concerned about what happens when they are released. Worldwide, the incarceration rate is about 160 individuals for every 100,000 people. The second highest incarceration rate is Russia at about 650. The highest is the United States at 750. In Texas, the rate is about 1,000. That is, at any given time, about one person in 100 in Texas is in a prison or jail, six times higher than the world average and higher than even the world’s worst dictatorships. Even if we stop putting people in prison at the current rates, we will be releasing 20,000 to 30,000 prisoners each year for many years to come just from TDC. Many thousands more will be released from county and city jails.

King doesn’t go into this, as his piece is more about the moral case for action, but locking up all of these people costs us a crapload of money, each and every year. Unquestionably, there are people who need to be locked up for good, but they’re a relatively small number. Many of the current inmates aren’t a threat to anyone, and some never were a threat to anyone but themselves. Keeping them locked up, and making it hard for them to deal with being out once they do get out, is a huge drain on us all. This is wrong, and it’s unsustainable. We need to find a better way. Good for Bill King to be talking about it.

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