NDAA recognizes balance between public safety and reintegrating prisoners back into society

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ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) passed a resolution to adopt its newly developed Policy Positions on Prisoner Reentry. Even though the role of prosecutors may vary in adherence to state laws, the NDAA believes America’s prosecutors should be actively involved in efforts to reintegrate prisoners into society. Recognizing that the chief responsibility of prosecutors is maintaining the safety of the law-abiding citizens they serve, there must also be a recognition that some prisoners can be rehabilitated and re-enter society equipped to make positive contributions.

Recent history has proven that incarcerating criminals more frequently and for longer periods of time has significantly contributed to the lowest crime rate in decades. However, we must face certain facts, such as: (1) record numbers of prisoners (approximately 650,000) are being released from prison on an annual basis; (2) the cost of housing prisoners is rapidly increasing from about $9.5 billion in 1982 to approximately $57 billion in 2001; and (3) at the present time, there is a high rate of recidivism among those released from prison—according to the Department of Justice, fewer than half of all released offenders stay out of trouble for at least three years after their release from prison, and many of these offenders commit serious and violent offenses while under parole supervision.

Programs such as education, job training, housing assistance, health care, substance abuse treatment, and faith-based initiatives—provided to inmates in prison—help promote their reintegration into society and can reduce recidivism. It is also important to incorporate payment of restitution and provide programs for victim services. Prosecutors should work with community leaders to develop ways to evaluate and employ necessary services—along with oversight and the threat of negative sanctions—to help ensure the success of inmates who are re-entering society.

According to Paul A. Logli, president of NDAA and Winnebago County State’s Attorney in Illinois: “We recognize that a prosecutor’s first duty is to protect those who live and work in their communities, and we will never abdicate this responsibility. However, given the large numbers of criminals being released from prisons each year, it is incumbent upon prosecutors to support and help create innovative programs that will reduce recidivism. We must also develop ways to determine the characteristics of prisoners who will most likely benefit from re-integration programs. Ultimately, successful integration of prisoners into society will require time and substantial resources from federal, state and local governments. NDAA and prosecutors across America are committed to playing a leadership role in preparing those who are leaving prison with an opportunity to re-enter society as contributors, not likely re-offenders.”

The NDAA represents approximately 30,000 prosecutors nationally. State and local prosecutors are responsible for trying more than 95 percent of all criminal cases in America.

From the August 17-23, 2005, issue

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