With more than 600,000 inmates being released each year, the search for solutions on how to deal with the flood is focusing increasingly on fragile places in nearly every city where the churning of people through prison is intensely concentrated, reports the New York Times. Rhode Island is among the states beginning to make progress in easing offenders' re-entry to society with the goal of bringing the revolving door to a halt, or at least slowing it. Sometimes it can be hard to see much of a difference.
Political leaders, police officers, corrections officials, churches, and community groups are working together to offer so-called re-entry programs, many modest in scope but remarkable nonetheless. “What we're witnessing is a great turning of the wheel in corrections policy,” said Ashbel T. Wall II, Rhode Island corrections director. Even with the new programs, the odds against staying straight are formidable. “There's a lot starting to happen,” said Sol Rodriguez of the Family Life Center, established in South Providence, R.I., in 2003 to help returning prisoners and their families. “But this is still a very poor community, and people are coming back into already overburdened neighborhoods.” Of some 3,500 inmates released each year, one-fourth return to a core zone of South Providence of just 3.3 square miles with 39,000 residents, most of whom are Hispanic or black.