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Why Jericho Circle?

Approximately two million men are incarcerated in the United States. Over the last several decades, correctional facilities have expanded at an unprecedented rate. More money than ever before is going into the criminal justice system, and a disproportionate amount of that money is going into building and maintaining prisons and other secure facilities. In a time of increasing fiscal constraints, federal, state and county correctional facilities cost over $30 billion a year to run. Due to tougher sentencing guidelines and more cautious release policies, more inmates are spending greater period of their lives behind the wire.

By any measure, we have created a prison nation with large numbers of our citizens living inside institutional walls. But in spite of efforts to segregate those who have broken the law through tougher laws and longer sentences, the barrier between offenders and society is far from air-tight. Over 95% of those behind bars will eventually return to society. In 2000, the nation’s prisons released 630,000 people—the largest exodus in prison history—more than four times as many as were released in 1980. Barring life sentences for all offenders, it is clear that the more people that are locked up, the more will eventually be released.

Looking at the other side of the equation—who enters prison—there is ample evidence to suggest that a vicious cycle is in place. Unconditionally released and paroled inmate—whether technical violators or convicted of a new offense—now represent a significantly higher percentage of those entering prisons. Prison populations are not only larger than they have ever been, but they now contain greater numbers of men who have, by whatever measure, failed before. An ever-increasing number of men in our society, especially men of color, have become pariahs—outcasts who find it exceedingly difficult to return from the exile of their confinement and reintegrate into society. Using a phrase that has been applied to slavery, many men returning from prison face significant legal, social, political and economic barriers–a kind of “social death.”

In the long run, the “out of sight, out of mind” approach fails to protect society. It neither completely removes those who have committed crimes from society, nor does it reduce crime among those who are released. Rhetoric and wishful thinking aside, studies have continually demonstrated that time served in prison is not an effective deterrent to crime. To the contrary, the latest research shows that inmates currently released from prison are more likely to commit new crimes than those released a decade earlier. The cycle continues to perpetuate itself over time: men commit crimes, they are sent to prison, they commit new crimes or technical violations, and they are returned to prison.