The US government, which is running out of room for inmates in its overcrowded prisons, is considering an alternative, and the new idea would involve sending prisoners to work on construction projects or to a rehabilitation program for the mentally ill.
The idea has been floated for years by federal and state governments, with some states even going so far as to consider offering prisoners incentives to work at home.
But in the end, such a program would have to be funded with federal funding, and would be difficult to administer without state and local government backing.
This article is part of the Truthout Series, which looks at the issues that matter most to people in our time.
It is part one in a series, and is available here.
The concept has been mooted before, but its prospects are unlikely to improve anytime soon.
And while the Obama administration’s recent proposal for $7.5 billion in funding to combat the opioid crisis and its associated deaths has garnered praise, the money is far from enough to bring much-needed rehabilitation services to the millions of people in prison and jails across the country.
“It’s time to look at what’s going on with our correctional facilities,” said Laura M. Anderson, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of a recent book about the state of American corrections.
“There are no prisons in America right now, and if you want to really improve conditions, you need to put people in those facilities who have been rehabilitated, who have the skills, the skills that can be applied elsewhere.”
The idea of a rehabilitation plan for the incarcerated has been around for a long time, but the US Justice Department hasn’t been able to find an agency that would take it up.
A program like that would require the creation of a new Department of Corrections, and that would be extremely costly, said Sarah McCrory, the director of research and advocacy for the Prison Policy Initiative, a group of lawyers and activists who have advocated for the right of inmates to receive the rehabilitative services they need in prison.
“It’s like sending a truckload of prisoners to a funeral home,” she said.
The problem is that federal prisons have a relatively small staff and an expensive budget, and so there are no big facilities like the Federal Correctional Institution in Florence, Georgia, that could house hundreds of inmates.
And when there are large facilities like those, the work that goes into rehabilitation programs for prisoners is often much harder than for prisoners in other prisons, according to Anderson and McCrories.
To address the need for rehabilitation programs, the Justice Department created the Department of Correctional Services in the 1980s to take over the operation of federal prisons and prisons across the nation.
But it has yet to take up the idea of using the money to put prisoners to productive use.
“The federal correctional system has very limited capacity, so the problem of addressing the lack of capacity in our prisons is very difficult,” Anderson said.
“The federal corrections system has been doing a very poor job in addressing the mental health needs of prisoners.
But when the federal government has a responsibility to address the mental-health needs of its people, the federal correctional agency has not.”
While the Justice and Prisoner Reentry Commission, an independent group created by Congress in 2015 to evaluate the conditions of federal inmates, has recommended that federal agencies be allowed to spend up to $2.4 billion on rehabilitation programs in their facilities, it has not done so for prison systems, according the groups’ report, released earlier this year.
“In the federal prison system, there is no rehabilitation program that could meet the needs of the current population, including the mentally and physically ill,” the report said.
But the proposal by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) for the Department to use federal money to help inmates is a big step forward.
It would give states and localities a chance to build a prison-rehabilitation program that can take the place of federal funding and can be easily replicated in other states.
“We need to make a lot of progress on this,” Anderson told Truthout.
“And we’re going to see that progress as we get closer to the end of the fiscal year.
We’ve got to make it happen.”
The Cotton-Graham proposal is the most detailed proposal of its kind to date, and it is the one that would allow states to start the program.
The commission found that there were problems in the way rehabilitation programs were run in prisons across America, and said that the federal corrections agency was “unable to provide effective rehabilitation programs.”
The commission recommended that states should have the option to set up their own rehabilitation programs.
“At a minimum, the commission recommends that the Commission issue guidelines for states and other agencies that will enable them to begin a program of their own, and to begin establishing and implementing programs in