Governmental agencies are trying to deal with the problems of prisoner re-entry “on the cheap,” says criminologist Pamela Lattimore of the University of South Carolina. Lattimore, who is leading an evaluation of federally funded programs to help released inmates re-enter society successfully, noted that only a small portion of the estimated $40 billion spent annually on corrections goes to programs related re-entry. “Most of the money goes for security, not programming,” she told a panel at the American Society of Criminology convention. The panel was sponsored by Criminal Justice Journalists and the Institute for Justice and Journalism of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. Lattimore noted that Congress has changed the emphasis several times in recent years of federal spending on the re-entry problem; she described that as a “scattershot approach.”
Also on the panel, Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, hailed the “political acceptability” of the prisoner re-entry issue today. This contrasts, he said, with the climate of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when there was “no room at all to be talking about people in prison.” Travis cautioned that merely starting a few re-entry programs is insufficient to overcome the challenges faced by hundreds of thousands of inmates released each year. He called for “community level change” and “serious parole reform” to help fill gaps in re-entry policies.