An Open Letter to Governor Malloy, State of Connecticut Legislators, and Members of the Connecticut Criminal Justice Community:
The Hippocratic Oath compels those in the medical profession to make certain that they first do no harm. A just and ethical principle to which all professionals should pay heed. History, as well as Connecticut’s recent experience, shows that rescissions to cost effective programs has far reaching detrimental collateral and economic implications. Once cut, restoration simply does not happen. These vital and proven programs will likely vanish.
It costs about $34,687 per year to incarcerate an individual versus less than $5,000 per year to provide services to that same individual in the community. Too often, economic downturns compel funding cuts to social services, cuts that are both inhumane and end up driving up costs to our state in the long run. Many services have already been reduced to the bare bones over the past several years as a result of the last recession. The current series of proposed cuts to community-based prevention, intervention, diversion and reentry criminal justice programs – as well as to including and mental health and addiction services – will lead to more people unduly suffering, costing the state (and the taxpayers) significantly more money in the end than it would to help provide for their basic needs.
People returning from prison are among society’s most vulnerable – as are their families. After having served their sentence they are now trying to rebuild their lives with the stigma of a felony conviction that functions as a scarlet letter. Many of these individuals live in the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods in our state, with limited opportunities – which is in part why they became susceptible to crime in the first place. Many or most also suffer from mental health issues and addiction problems.
Without public policies that promote social cohesion and well-being for individuals who have been in prison, research shows that they will soon return to the criminal behavior that landed them in prison in the first place.
Nonprofits already do the job with very little funding and resources. Research, for which Connecticut has been at the forefront, categorically demonstrates that good community criminal justice programs (crime prevention, reentry, mental health, substance abuse treatment, diversion programs) reduce recidivism and incarceration rates thereby saving the state (and taxpayers) money (Fagan & Buchanan, 2016); a lot of money in both the short and long term. These programs have a positive return on our investment by eliminating the costs of returning these individuals back to prison or the court system, and helping individuals become productive, tax-paying citizens. Long-term benefit-cost ratios for some community reentry programs in CT are as high as $405.23 for every dollar invested (see “Results First Benefit-Cost Analyses of Adult Criminal and Juvenile Justice Evidence-Based Programs”).
Connecticut can be the nation’s leader in criminal justice reform. We propose that that the state and the nonprofit sector jointly adopt a motto of “First Do No Harm.” While we recognize the challenges and competing priorities within social service programs, let’s not rush to reduce spending on or cut critical interventions that have been built over thirty years of thoughtful planning supported by research and measurable outcomes. Instead, let’s create a re-envisioned public-private-nonprofit partnership that is committed to enlightened policy decisions in our state by investing today in programs that work to help reduce recidivism and provide health coverage and addiction services to those in need, so as to help ensure our future prosperity as a state and a country.
We urge the legislature’s passing of the mini-budget this Thursday as an important next step!
We at Family ReEntry welcome all thoughts and comments. My contact information is below.
Respectfully and gratefully submitted,
Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Executive Director
Family ReEntry, Inc.
75 Washington Street
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604
Clark, A., Janicki, M. M., & Noonan, J. (2016). Connecticut Results First Benefit-cost Analyses of Adult Criminal and Juvenile Justice Evidence-based Programs, Pursuant to Public Act 15-5, June Special Session, Connecticut General Statutes, Sections 4-68r and-68s. Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, Central Connecticut State University.
Durose, M. R., Cooper, A. D., & Snyder, H. N. (2014). Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Fagan, A. A., & Buchanan, M. (2016). What Works in Crime Prevention?. Criminology & Public Policy, 15(3), 617-649.