Way too many young people are in our jails, and a huge portion of them are repeat offenders. It is unfortunate that young people get into trouble and wind up in jail, but it is even worse when so many return to their detrimental ways and wind up back in prison.
We need to challenge ourselves to prepare inmates for successful reentry into society as fully employed, taxpaying citizens. A sensible investment on the front end would prepare inmates for success in the world and would be miniscule in comparison to the continuing cost of additional years of incarceration, which is approaching $30,000 a year to house a single inmate.
When private industry steps up
At a conference several years ago, I heard an inspiring story of long-term rehabilitation from an industrial-seating manufacturer in Kansas. After struggling to fill its skilled labor jobs, this company partnered with a local prison to set up a portion of its manufacturing inside the prison walls. The company hired prisoners as regular employees, taught them a valuable skill and, perhaps surprisingly, paid them competitive, market-based wages.