E.This year tens of thousands of Americans will be released from prisons and jails, and nearly one in three Americans has a criminal record. Unfortunately, even after their release, these former detainees face significant hurdles in returning to everyday life after they have paid their debts to society. These hurdles affect their ability to find a job, get decent housing, get insurance, and more. The list goes on and on.
Aurora Councilor Curtis Gardner
These legal obstacles are a major contributor to the high relapse rates in our country. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), over 80% of those released from state prison are arrested again within nine years. These statistics should be alarming.
In addition to increasing relapse, the lack of housing, job opportunities, and thousands of other obstacles at the federal, state, county, and local levels have other negative effects: decreased economic mobility, increased drug abuse rates, higher unemployment rates, and more.
First and foremost, the constant cycle of imprisonment in our country creates human costs. These imprisoned people are husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and more. The BJS reports that over 54% of those in state and federal prisons are parents of minor children. Families can be affected for generations as lack of housing and economic stability create a ripple effect.
Second, there is a strong economic argument as to why we should encourage second chances. Increased recidivism rates reduce economic mobility, leading to higher unemployment, increased need for vouchers, and increased need for other types of economic support.
Some reading this might think that the declaration of support for second chance takes a “soft crime” position. That’s not the case. It is possible to crack down on crime and support measures to ensure that those who have paid their debts to society can get back to normal without some form of second prison. Indeed, ensuring that individuals can re-enter society after serving their sentences reduces crime rates and makes our communities safer.
I am proud to table a resolution declaring April in Aurora, Colorado, second chance month. Jurisdictions in the United States, including the federal government, as well as several states and cities, have done this in the past, and the number continues to grow every year. I hope to have the support of my colleagues in taking this small step and explaining that Aurora is a second chance city.
I want Aurora to be known as a city that values human life. I want to be known as a city that supports salvation and second chances. I want to be known as a city that is the best place to have a family, have a job, or start a business in Colorado, and that includes our residents who need a second chance.
Curtis Gardner is a councilor for the City of Aurora.