Sunday, April 10, 2011

on hiring ex-offenders

so gary welsh posted a screed this morning lamenting how outrageous it is that the city has programs for helping ex-offenders find jobs. in particular, he's up in arms that ex-offenders are landing city jobs driving garbage trucks, cleaning up parks, and the like.

i know fear of crime is big in right-wing politics, but i'm puzzled about what's supposed to be so bad about mayor ballard's ex-offender programs, because frankly i believe those to be among the mayor's most admirable initiatives.

in our criminal justice system, if you're convicted of a crime and fulfill the terms of your punishment, then that's supposed to be that. you did the crime, now do the time, as they say. but the reality is that there are few opportunities for those who've been incarcerated. when you get out, you have no money, often have no support system, and finding even a crappy mcjob can be a mighty struggle because lots of employers discriminate against ex-offenders. many end up returning to crime out of sheer desperation—they're broke, desperate, unable to find work, and crime may be the only life they know.

the best hope for breaking the cycle of recidivism is to help ex-offenders find stable jobs, housing, and support systems so that they can learn how to become upstanding members of society. mayor ballard wants to do that, but this makes gary welsh very angry. so what does gary think should happen to the city's ex-offenders? are they supposed to curl up and die? should we lock them up and throw away the key? should they just remain criminals, hopping in and out of prison until they get shanked in the shower? should their useful indiscretions doom them to life as a permanent underclass, barred from getting cushy jobs like working with "solid waste"? should we just give them a one-way bus ticket to cincinnati and let someone else deal with them?

i don't often find reason to praise mayor ballard, but i whole-heartedly support his ex-offender re-entry programs and feel we need more such programs, not less. they're good for the ex-offenders, good for the community, and even good for the economy—incarcerating people costs tax money; getting them jobs creates tax revenue. there is no down side—unless you believe that people can never change and there's no such thing as rehabilitation... in which case we probably shouldn't release people from prison at all.

update: i'd been hoping that paul ogden would try to talk some sense into gary, but no, he now has a post up calling ballard's program "insane". he writes, "While we shouldn't rule out people convicted from working for the city, it certainly shouldn't be a positive chip on the side of the applicant." but why not? it's a public good for ex-offenders to be able to find gainful employment when they get out, so what's the harm in setting aside a few jobs in order to help that happen? i can't think of a more benign or effective way to achieve that goal, and ogden sure doesn't propose any.

furthermore, i would argue that the program doesn't conflict with the mayor's overall focus on public safety, as ogden claims. on the contrary, the program makes our community safer by helping ex-offenders go legit rather than fall back into old criminal habits. but ogden may be right that a lot of republican voters won't see it that way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My guess is that Gary would prefer that they just curl up and die.......