More than 74 percent of Americans are concerned about crime committed by released prisoners, and 70 percent believe that convicts should be offered services both in prison and after they are freed, says the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD). A detailed survey of 1,000 citizens commissioned by NCCD from the Zogby Group showed that 87 percent believe that prisons should attempt to rehabilitate inmates; only 11 percent believe that penal institutions exist only for punishment purposes. NCCD’s Chris Baird presented the findings today to a jail re-entry conference sponsored by the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. along with the Prisoner Reentry Institute of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Montgomery County, Md., Department of Correction and Rehabilitation.
There is a “disconnect” between public support for inmate rehabilitation and the relative lack of public funding for re-entry projects for three main reasons, Baird said. One is how the news media, especially television, present information on crime and justice to the public; another is that conservatives have “dominated the debate” in recent decades; and a third is “lack of leadership” by rehabilitation advocates. The public recognizes that many ex-prisoners face serious employment, medical, and housing problems, Baird said. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed favor the “Second Chance Act” pending in Congress that would authorize federal spending for prisoner re-entry, the Zogby poll found.