Ex-Inmates Face Years of “Invisible Punishment”

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Many of the 625,000 former prisoners who return to U.S. society this year will face crushing obstacles in finding work and housing and repairing fractured family ties, the Washington Post reports on conclusions of a new study.

The Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project, says returning inmates often face so many restrictions that the conditions amount to more years of “invisible punishment.” The study warned that their chances of staying out of prison and remaining crime-free are greatly diminished by laws that were promoted as being tough on crime. Justice Department statistics show that more than 60 percent of former inmates are rearrested within three years of release.

Denial of welfare benefits for minor drug-related offenses, rejection of former inmates for public housing, a lack of drug-treatment programs and transitional housing, and restrictions on employment are some of the factors. “There’s always been an American belief that once you pay your debt, you are free to rejoin the community, but these policies now form a sort of permanent second-class citizenship,” said the Sentencing Project’s Marc Mauer.

The study is presented in 16 essays and reports in a 355-page book, “Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Incarceration.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17333-2003May20.html?nav=hptop_tb

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