What happens if the state gives direct cash assistance—$2,750 spread out over three payments to released prisoners?
This is what the state of California is trying out. A law now allows prosecutors to recommend incarcerated people for release if that person received a particularly excessive sentence, or has shown that they’ve rehabilitated themselves while in prison.
The cash payments are part of a pilot program from For The People—a nonprofit that works with prosecutors to resentence and release people under the state’s prosecutor-initiated resentencing law—and The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), a nonprofit that provides employment training and other services to those just coming home from prison.
This kind of cash assistance can help make sure newly released people have money in their pockets for everyday needs.
“It could also build confidence among prosecutors and judiciary to say, ‘Yeah, we will release this person, now that we know they have services and money, we feel more comfortable making that release,’” says Center for Employment Opportunities CEO Sam Schaeffer. “That to us is a really exciting idea, how cash assistance could really help accelerate the depopulation of prisons and jails.”
When someone is released from prison, they may get assistance when it comes to finding housing or figuring out transportation, but all the other expenses that come with reentering society—a cell phone so they can be reached for job interviews, or nice clothes for those interviews—are left to them.
However, this pilot program gives people $2,750, an amount that could allow one person to get a car (the program has already delivered cash to about five people), so he could get himself to job interviews.
Research says that the first 72 hours after a person is released from prison is a critical time in determining if that person will get on their feet or wind up back in prison again — a much costlier outcome for all concerned.
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