Up From Darkness

Congress gives a Second Chance
June 13, 2008, 5:38 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Up From Darkness volunteers plant treesIn the early 1990s, Congress invested $20 billion in prisons and hiring additional police with the result of creating an enormous boom in the prison population, that is, frankly, bankrupting many states and local governments.

Had the same amount been invested in schools instead, we would have had a much different history.

Yet here we are in a state like California that spends more on its prisons than its universities.

The new Second Chance Act, although only funded at one-fortieth of that investment in prisons, is a good first step to begin to bring the collateral damage of the war on drugs back into society. Congress realized what I  saw 15 years ago, that people who had been in prison needed to restore their lives in an environment that gave them dignity and gave communities a new way to see them.

At Up From Darkness, we give our students the chance to start over, training them in the ways to deal with their internal crises and family concerns and surrounding them 24 hours with a continuum of reinforcement against the streets and the pen.

We’ve put more than 200 persons back to work and living normal lives, because we put them back in an environment of normalcy.

For less than one-eighth what it costs to keep someone in prison or jail, we can turn them into a productive tax paying citizen with a high degree of civic involvement.

The Second Chance Act, championed by Rep. Danny Davis and signed by President Bush, puts $500 million in the efforts like ours.  We hope that policymakers will choose culturally-responsive, community-based efforts like Up From Darkness as the models for a comprehensive national re-entry program.


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