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What happens after nonviolent drug offenders are released? We need to make sure people have skills and education. We need to help people be responsible. We need to help people feel like they have a stake in our society.- Dr. Carl Hart

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President Obama has the stingiest record for presidential clemency among presidents in modern history. He has granted fewer pardons than presidents before him. But Obama is ready to change that: He is planning to grant clemency to hundreds, possibly thousands, of non-violent drug offenders.

This all comes by way of a senior administration official who spoke with Yahoo News yesterday, the same day Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department is going to expand its clemency application criteria. The DOJ is prepping for a deluge of new applicants as a result of the looser rules.

So while the Justice Department prepares for an onslaught of non-violent drug offenders to plead their case, other entities will have to prepare for the result. Just look at America’s cities: The potential release of many of these non-violent offenders is certain to have a large impact on America’s urban enclaves. From Chicago to Brooklyn and Detroit to Los Angeles, families and communities will be preparing to welcome home loved ones. But how do you prepare for re-entry to society?

We already know that prisons are no place for job-skills training. And they aren’t terribly efficient at reducing recidivism. When we spoke with Columbia professor Dr. Carl Hart, whose newest book High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society explores drugs in American cities, he was blunt in his assessment of how prisons prepare convicts for life outside.

Hart: Think about the amount of money we spend in prisons. We’re not giving people any skills. We’re housing them under the supervision of people who don’t know anything about human development, nor do they care about teaching or education. Think of all the money we’re spending that way, where we’re not shaping any behaviors that will be helpful to us as a society.

Hart: We need to make sure people have skills and education. We need to help people be responsible. We need to help people feel like they have a stake in our society.

That type of training is going to have to come from community groups and non-profits, who I’m sure are readying for a return of citizens once Obama begins granting clemency. Because there’s no way our prisons and our parole officers are going to make young men and women returning to life outside “feel like they have a stake in our society.”

Reposted from: Nextcity.org

 

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