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WHEREAS, the United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.1 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails; and
WHEREAS, this record number of prisoners, a 500% increase over the past thirty years can be directly tied to the "war on drugs" and the political popularity of mandatory minimum sentences; and
WHEREAS, as of 2005, 1 out of every 136 Americans was incarcerated in prison or jail; the numbers are much worse if you are a racial or ethnic minority American - one in 8 African American males (12%) aged 25 - 29 was in prison or jail in 2005 as were 1 in 26 Hispanic males (4%) in the same age group. Comparatively, 1 in 59 Caucasian males in the 25 - 29 age group was incarcerated in 2005 (1.7%); and
WHEREAS, in 2005, 40% of prison inmates were African American and 20% were Hispanic; and
WHEREAS, it is preposterous that many states have often been forced to choose between building new prisons or new schools, because of the federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Worse still, the country has created a growing felon caste, now more than 16 million strong and growing, of felons and ex-felons, who are often driven back to prison by policies that make it impossible for them to find jobs, housing, or education; and
WHEREAS, of the 2.2 million persons housed in prisons today - an average annual increase of 3 percent in the past decade - 97 percent will be released into the community; and
WHEREAS, over 600,000 prisoners are released each year, and given the disproportionate number of whom are African American and Hispanic, this is having dramatic and disparate repercussions on particular neighborhoods and communities of color; and
WHEREAS, states spend an average of approximately $22,000 annually to house a prisoner, and taxpayers spend more than $60 billion annually on corrections, more than six times the $9 billion spent 25 years ago; and
WHEREAS, up to two-thirds of all released prisoners nationwide end up back in prison within just 3 years; and
WHEREAS, there are many reasons for this high recidivism rate - many ex-offenders can't manage to find and keep effective jobs to care for themselves and/or their families; and
WHEREAS, as a result, many ex-offenders become a drain on their families, their communities and the social services system; and
WHEREAS, as a result, they are more likely to resort to criminal activities and perpetuate poverty and family dysfunction; and
WHEREAS, the current system still fails to adequately support the essential programs for health, housing, substance abuse, education, and employment that ex-offenders need to reintegrate into their communities; and
WHEREAS, upon release from prison, ex-offenders need to find safe, adequate, and affordable housing 15-27 percent of prisoners expect to go to homeless shelters upon release. Figures published by the Volunteers of America in 2004 indicated that two-thirds of former prisoners who lacked adequate housing had committed crimes within 1 year of their release, compared to only one-quarter of those who had housing. Another recent study released by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service showed that 30-56 percent of parolees in urban areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco are homeless, which compounds the profound hardship that re-integration already places on urban communities; and
WHEREAS, upon release from prison, ex-offenders also need job training and, often, a basic education. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that only 46 percent of incarcerated individuals have a high school diploma or its equivalent. The limited availability of education and vocational training programs exacerbates the problem, only 5 percent of job jurisdictions offer vocational training, and 33 percent of jurisdictions offer no educational or vocational training at all Research shows what a profound effect such programs have on decreasing recidivism rates. Recidivism for inmates who participate in prison education vocation and work programs has been found to be 20 to 60 percent lower than for non-participants. The Federal Bureau of Prisons found a 33 percent drop in recidivism among Federal prisoners who participated in vocational training; and
WHEREAS, upon release from prison, many ex-offenders also need mental health services, such as substance abuse counseling. Nearly a quarter of state prisoners and jail inmates with a mental health problem had served three or more prior incarcerations, yet two-thirds of state prisoners do not receive mental health treatment. In substance abuse treatment, more than two-thirds of state prisoners have been regular drug users at some point during their lives, and one-third had committed the crime for which they were imprisoned while under the influence of drugs. According to a recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report, of the approximately 50 percent of prisoners who met the criteria for drug dependence or abuse, less than half participated in drug treatment programs since their admission to prison; and
WHEREAS, the. nearly 100,000 children who make up the juvenile prison population are among the most vulnerable and defenseless groups in our criminal justice system. Too often we fail to protect them, many juvenile ex-offenders have learning disabilities and need substance abuse and mental health treatment. Many are incarcerated in overcrowded facilities, and these boys and girls are among the most likely to be sent back to prison or jail; and
WHEREAS, in 2006, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that 2 million children nationwide have an incarcerated parent Studies suggest that these children are seven times more likely to end up. in prison themselves. One study found that as many as 1 in 10 will have been incarcerated before reaching adulthood; and
WHEREAS, at the current rate of incarceration 3 in 10 of the next generation of African American males can expect to be disenfranchised at some point in their lifetime.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP supports and shall advocate in favor of legislation to assist the positive re-entry of ex-offenders into society and to remove barriers from successful reentry; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP strongly supports legislation that is comprehensive in nature and addresses issues including housing, education, job training and placement, marital health and substance abuse services for ex-offenders; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that at the federal level the NAACP supports, along with other legislation, the Second Chance Act, H.R. 1593 introduced by Congressman Danny Davis (IL) and others, and S. 1060, introduced by Senator Joseph Biden (DE) and others; and
BE IT FlNALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP supports legislative efforts to permanently expunge or seal the records of ex-offenders involved in non-violent offenses who have successfully reentered society after successful completion of their sentence.