This year, nearly three-quarters of a million people will be released from prison, a record high. New York Times blogger Tina Rosenberg criticizes typical prisoner re-entry practices, saying that they “echo the typical follies of our criminal justice system: our politicians usually believe that voters only want the emotional satisfactions of meting out maximum punishment, even if these policies lead to even more crime.” Rosenberg says most New York state released prisoners get $40, a bus ticket, and the considerable stigma that follows an ex-offender.
Rosenberg describes the work of the Fortune Society, which helps about 4,000 newly released prisoners each year with job training and placement, drug treatment, classes in cooking and anger management and being a father, and G.E.D. studies. Some 300 ex-inmates can get housing in a Fortune building in West Harlem known as the Castle, which turns away at least 10 people for every one it accepts. “We get several thousand letters a year,” says Fortune president JoAnne Page. Rosenberg also discusses the San Francisco-based Delancey Street prisoner re-entry program, which has established similar communities in Los Angeles, New Mexico, North Carolina and upstate New York. Carol Kizziah, who manages Delancey's efforts to apply its lessons elsewhere, says that the organization estimates that 75 percent of its graduates go on to productive lives.