There’s nothing radical about giving law-breakers who served their time an opportunity to turn their lives around and avoid ending up back behind bars. More than 30 red and blue states have enacted measures to reduce incarceration, control costs and improve public safety. Texas — no bleeding-heart liberal mecca — spearheaded alternatives to the endless prison-building boom a decade ago by redirecting tax dollars to rehab, treatment and mental health services. The Lone Star state saved an estimated $3 billion in new public construction costs while stemming the prison population tide.
Similar efforts adopted last year in Louisiana — long known as the prison capital of the world — have yielded promising reductions in the recidivism rate. Pelican Institute for Public Policy analyst Margaret Mire reports that “Louisiana’s re-arrest rate in the first nine months is 19 percent, or 7 percentage points, behind the national, annual re-arrest average of 26 percent.” State data show that the re-incarceration rate is down to 6 percent in the same time period — “on pace to be 9 percentage points lower than its full-year average prior to the reforms, or 15 percent.”
Mississippi GOP Gov. Phil Bryant overhauled sentencing mandates, embraced faith-based ministries and funded counseling programs for inmates preparing for their transition to life on the outside. “Crime is down 6 percent,” he reported at a White House prison reform summit earlier this year. “We have 3,000 less inmates. We saved $40 million since 2014. And you can do the same thing.”