The Case for MEND Employment and Re-entry Services


Mass incarceration in the United States grew out of approximately 40 years of zero tolerance policing policies, mandatory minimum sentencing, and habitual offender/ "three strike" statutes. These policies and laws spurred an unprecedented growth in the prison population, particularly amongst Blacks and Latinos. Michelle Alexander notes there are more black men under the control of the corrections system today than were enslaved in 1850. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported 1,571,013 people were incarcerated in federal facilities in the United States at the yearend of 2012.

The vast majority of these offenders received sentences that led to their eventual release from prison and return to their communities. As these lengthy sentences are ending, offenders are being released in large numbers. In 2010, approximately 700,000 people were released from state and federal institutions. In addressing the issue of prisoner release, then President George W. Bush (2004) in his State of the Union Address stated, "This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society…if they can’t find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit crime and return to prison."

Once released, ex-offenders face serious barriers as they attempt to re-establish themselves in the community. These barriers fall into two categories: a lack of preparation for release and structural barriers to re-entry. Ex-offenders received little preparation for release, because budget constraints and cost cutting measures forced some prisons to curtail education and job training programs. Eliminating these programs within the prison left offenders ill prepared for life outside of the prison.

In an innovative approach to address issues of recidivism nationwide, in 2012 Goldman Sachs began investing in the first of its Social Impact Bond Investments. Goldman invested over $9 million to provide services to adolescent male Rikers Island inmates intended to reduce the rates at which they reoffend after their release. Some of the services provided included education, job training, and employment assistance. According to their projections, Goldman could make as much as $2.1 million in profit from this investment if recidivism is reduced by 10% amongst these adolescent male Rikers Island inmates. Alternatively, if recidivism is not reduced by at least 10 percent, Goldman will lose nearly $2.4 million it is obligated to pay to its bond investors.



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