I’ve always questioned why there’s never enough money for libraries, but always enough for prisons. We are presently building a set of new buildings which will replace the old Graterford. We become what we invest in. If we invest in problems they grow, if we invest in solutions instead the solutions grow and the problems shrink.
It cost 35 to 40,000 dollars a year to place someone in Philadelphia prisons. Couldn’t this money be better spent investing in the same people? Prisons take over 25 percent of city budgets. Incarceration creates a big hole in a family and community. Children self esteem is destroyed when their fathers are removed from their lives and placed in prison. Not only is the father or son removed from the family, he also fails to be a contributor, both personally and financially.
My suggestion is this: the city should purchase entire city blocks of run down homes. (This could be in Kensington, North Philadelphia, or Southwest Philadelphia). They are only going to return to the same neighborhood upon release. Rebuild the homes and turn them into half way houses for nonviolent offenders. This would cost approximately 1/10 or less than an incarceration. These individuals would then be mandated to attend a programs to address their drug and alcohol, G&D, Vocational Training, or psychological issues utilizing community resources. This would likely cost 3500 to 4000 dollars a year.
Inmates could also be placed on work release as migrant workers, street cleaners, or employed to rebuild the neighborhood that they help tear down. Under the supervision of security and trained builders. The money these men earn can be put toward housing expenses so that their incarceration doesnt cost the taxpayer. Also, their money can be used towards child support, so that they and their children are less dependent on the system.