As more than 630,000 inmates are released each year from U.S. prisons, many of them likely to commit new crimes, a leading scholar is calling for “creatively reengineering the reentry process” and setting “a different course for our justice system.” Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, advocates a series of reforms in “But They All Come Back,” a book published today by the Urban Institute Press in Washington, D.C.
Travis argues that the nation has failed to deal with the consequences of its “large-scale social experiment” of quadrupling imprisonment totals over three decades. Contending that the “assembly line” criminal justice system should “seize the moment of release,” he maintains that inmates should not be dumped back home in poor neighborhoods but rather should be helped by a new “justice intermediary” agency to “navigate the tricky waters of housing, drug treatment, criminal justice supervision, and family adjustments.” More social services might be financed eventually by savings resulting from not having to reimprison so many convicts for new offenses, he says. Such a “justice reinvestment” strategy might be able to help reduce the “cycle of crime, arrests, and incarceration,” Travis says. He supporte creation of “reentry courts,” which, along the lines of drug courts, would oversee the work now performed by a “parole system that is held in low public esteem.”