After a quarter-century of declining emphasis on rehabilitating inmates, state corrections systems are refocusing on drug treatment, education, and vocational programs, says the Washington Post. Virginia has created a committee focused on programs to prepare inmates for release. “We’re seeing a sea change now away from the lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key approach,” said Debbie A. Mukamal of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.
Contrary to political stereotypes, some programs are being pushed by Republicans like Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. In Maryland and some other states, Democrats are blocking initiatives because of concerns that they will be ineffective and a waste of money. Maryland’s RESTART (for Reentry Enforcement Services Targeting Addiction, Rehabilitation and Treatment) is designed to help inmates before they are released so they don’t commit crimes and end up back in the penal system. Because of a standoff between Ehrlich and the Democrat-controlled legislature, the initiative — with a $5.2 million budget this fiscal year — has only two pilot sites, and expansion is in doubt.