Re­vive us again

How to achieve re-en­try speed

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

AT THE END of ev­ery old-fash­ioned tent re­vival, there comes a time to stand and tes­tify about what the Lord’s done for His newly re­vived fol­low­ers. It’s called wit­ness­ing, and there was a whole crowd of wit­nesses when the cons at the state’s big­gest re-en­try cen­ter made it clear how proud and happy they are to be on their way to be­com­ing ex-cons.

These re­formed char­ac­ters had largely re­formed them­selves with a lit­tle—or rather a lot of—help from their friends, cell­mates, and most of all from those who run state-fi­nanced re-en­try cen­ters like Covenant Re­cov­ery in Malvern, which is one of the cen­ters that help pris­on­ers turn their lives around and get on a road to re­cov­ery. Which in their case means be­com­ing pro­duc­tive, self-dis­ci­plined mem­bers of the free world.

It takes a lot of hard work and self-dis­ci­pline for these pris­on­ers to at­tain re-en­try speed, and the whole state has ev­ery rea­son to ap­plaud their progress, for— lest we for­get—these will be our fel­low cit­i­zens and vot­ers some day. Lord willing, they’ll soon be back among us not as dan­gers to so­ci­ety, but pil­lars of it.

The Hon. Asa Hutchin­son, gov­er­nor and chief warder of the state of Arkansas, has hailed these re-en­try cen­ters as a so­lu­tion to one if the state’s most per­sis­tent plagues: a prison sys­tem filled to over­flow­ing with in­mates. More im­pres­sive, he’s put the tax­pay­ers’ money where his mouth has been. The ob­ject is to re­duce the alarm­ing rate at which to­day’s pris­on­ers find them­selves be­hind bars again within only three years of their re­lease. That rate of re­cidi­vism has al­ready in­creased to 51.8 per­cent com­pared to the 43 per­cent it was two years ago. (Might this have some­thing to do with the crack­down on those who flount pro­ba­tion and pa­role re­quire­ments? Let’s hope so.) To quote J.R. Davis, one of the gov­er­nor’s spokesper­sons: “We’re still very much in the early stages of this” re­form. “I think what we’re see­ing is what the gov­er­nor had en­vi­sioned—giv­ing those that go to jail a sec­ond chance. Peo­ple make mis­takes, and they are re­spon­si­ble for those mis­takes. But let’s change be­hav­ior; let’s give peo­ple a chance to change.” Surely that is not too much to ask, even to in­sist on.

Katy Petrus, direc­tor of Covenant Re­cov­ery, and Jeremy McKen­zie, its founder, know of what they speak. Both have been in­un­dated by re­quests from em­ploy­ers for in­mates to work on projects like clean­ing up work sites and help­ing with Neigh­bor­hood Watch pro­grams.

Of the 669 pris­on­ers who’ve gone though a re-en­try cen­ter pro­gram, about a third of them, or 229 in­mates, back­slide. But that means two-thirds of them don’t! Which isn’t a bad suc­cess rate. To quote Dina Tyler, a deputy direc­tor of the state’s Com­mu­nity Cor­rec­tion Depart­ment: “They come out of prison, and they have to build struc­ture them­selves. They don’t know how. If they had known how to build struc­ture in their life with the right planks and sup­port beams in place, they wouldn’t have been in prison in the first place. That’s what we’re try­ing to teach them now.”

Our best wishes to all those em­bark­ing on the next stage of their lives. May it be a new be­gin­ning and not a re­peat of an old and all too abrupt end­ing. God­speed.

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