Re-entry is one of the most dangerous times for an astronaut. The same is true for people returning to the community after years in prison. They need help and guidance, of the kind the Schenectady County Re-entry Task Force is providing, if they are to make it back successfully and turn their lives around.
If you just release them and send them back without support — or, worse, have laws that make it difficult or impossible to get housing and employment — they’re very likely to commit another crime and return to prison. (Sometimes they’ll even commit the crime so they can return). And society pays the price — with new victims, and the costs of more cops, prosecutors and incarcerating the criminal again.
Avoided costs are important to economists. But in this case they should also be important to anyone who cares about the concepts of justice, redemption and salvation. They represent a human being saved, and often a family along with him. They mean prison has been used as it should be — not as something that defines and marks one for life, but as a finite punishment, with the prisoner getting a legitimate second chance afterward.
The Schenectady County task force has been operating since 2009, guiding the transition of around 150 prisoners a year, helping them get mentoring, counseling, housing and employment. It is funded and overseen by the state, and run by the nonprofit Center for Community Justice. It’s one of 19 such efforts in the state — a smart, cost-effective and humane approach to criminal justice.