Each year more than a thousand inmates who have served their sentences are released in Anchorage, often in the parking lot of the city jail. Many go straight to a homeless shelter, says the Anchorage Daily News. Almost half will be jailed for committing a new crime within three years, says a 2011 Pew Center for the States report. That’s the highest rate in the nation. Anchorage, where more felons are released than any other place in Alaska, has its first walk-in “re-entry” center, just a few blocks from the jail.
A coalition of non-profits behind the center hopes it will keep more people from going back to jail. At the Partners Reentry Center, newly-released inmates can get help with needs like bus passes and warm clothes, as well as housing, substance abuse counseling and employment. The center celebrated a public opening yesterday but has been serving clients for a few months. The Department of Corrections’ former head of parole and probation is now the “deputy commissioner for prisoner re-entry and programming.” That’s not just lip service, said Cathleen McLaughlin of the Alaska Native Justice Center, an agency involved in the new center: There’s a growing awareness of the costs, both human and fiscal, of an endless cycle of incarceration and release.