A bipartisan group of congressmen yesterday started a federal effort to help the 650,000 people released each year from U.S. prisons to stay out of jail, Reuters reports. Ohio Republican Rep. Rob Portman told a House committee that the bill he is sponsoring with Illinois Democrat Danny Davis aimed to address a recidivism crisis. “The social and economic costs of a 67 percent recidivism rate are astounding,” Portman said.
The Department of Justice said in November there were 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons and jails, making it the world’s largest prison system. The U.S. incarcerates people at a rate of five to seven times that of most other democracies and last year cost about $57 billion. Committee chairman Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican, said high recidivism rates represented a “massive failure of the penal system to return law-abiding citizens to society.” Paul Quander, director of court services and offender supervision in Washington D.C., said most prison releasees were unskilled and undereducated, with long histories of drug or alcohol abuse. “For their entire adult lives, they have cycled in and out of prison,” he said.