Legal scholar works with advocates to help inmates re-enter society

line drawing of two hands in wrist cuffs

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FORT WORTH – More than 650,000 men and women are released from state and federal prisons every year, according to statistics by the National Institute of Justice. That’s roughly the population of the entire city of Baltimore.

That means some prisoners may be returning to society too soon without a rigorous or effective prison re-entry program, and in turn, this contributes to a rise in crime and in turn, a declining economy. Texas A&M University School of Law associate professor Lisa Rich is working with an advocacy group who is attempting to reduce the number of young men of color re-entering the criminal justice pipeline after already serving time in prison.

“Because our criminal justice system is so diverse, there are so many potential sentences. We now have this huge system we can’t afford,” Rich said. “They get out and can’t support themselves, and then they end up in prison again.”

Rich’s aim is to give former prisoners the tools they need to succeed through interactive workshops or programs designed to reduce the number of relapses. She says one out of seven people in the United States. alone, have had some contact with the criminal justice system. One estimate suggests the U.S. economy loses between $55 and $65 billion in output annually as a result of former prisoners not being able to work or being forced to work below their potential.

By working to ensure a more meaningful re-entry into society, Rich’s research helps stabilize economy, promote families and reduce monetary and societal strains on governments.

“While it is important that those who break the law are held accountable, we must have thoughtful penalties and sentencing,” Rich said. “We must ensure that once a person has fulfilled his or her sentence, they have the means to reintegrate meaningfully into society – that promotes safety and security in this country.”

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