It's Time to Focus on What Matters
From The ODA Blog
Tags: 2016 election, baltimore, cost of incarceration, ex-offenders, poverty, war on drugs
According to the much-respected Sentencing Project (relying on consistent data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Prisons), upwards of 100 million Americans have some type of a criminal record. That's 1 in 3 with no end in sight.
Building unabated for the past half-century, this non-sustainable ex-offender proliferation poses a triple threat to America's growth and stability. Few, if any, national scenarios possess similar potential to simultaneously undermine the economy, bankrupt the budget, and rip apart the social fabric that binds us together.
And, yet, throughout our recently concluded election, scarcely a word was spoken about the ex-offender tsunami that is already rushing through the streets of our inner cities and small towns where so many ex-offenders are released.
Visit rural communities like Cumberland, Maryland (population 20,000) in the Appalachian Mountains -- home to both a federal and state prison -- and talk to locals about the deleterious impact of released prisoners with nowhere to work, nowhere to live, and no one to provide beyond-the-wall support.
The discussion quickly turns to downtown shopping centers no longer safe for nighttime commerce, a raging heroin problem previously confined to Baltimore and Washington, a police force spread too thin to do its job, and a social services sector drowning in the undertow. All of which matches up with national data showing 60 percent of ex-offenders still unemployed 12 months after leaving prison.
Like our "wars on terror" since 9/11, our "war on drugs" (launched in June 1971) was not developed with a clear definition of victory, or, a coherent exit strategy capable of "securing the peace." The urgency of the moment created the need to do something. Anything. And that's what we did. Now, nearly five decades later, we're living with the bitter consequences of a "lock them up" game plan that never envisioned a prison population so large, or, an ex-offender fire hydrant so powerful.
Which is why our work at Open Door America is so vitally important to the health of the nation.
For over a decade, we've taken the granular lessons of East Baltimore poverty and incarceration and painstakingly knitted together a replicable solution with national implications.
Today, our emerging ex-offender partnerships with regional and national employers offer breakthrough opportunities for former inmates pushed aside in our political campaigns and worker discussions.
In the coming months, we will be bringing you the stories of these employers -- why they're involved and how they hold the key to America's future.
Open Door Baltimore, a nonprofit that fights poverty by working with businesses to provide living-wage jobs, is expanding beyond the beltway. To better reflect the organization’s larger mission, the board of directors recently approved a new identity and logo.Read More