Aug. 22, 2016 3:03 pm

This Penn study reveals more bad news about the impacts of time spent incarcerated

Can't make bail? That's time in jail before your trial — and a 30 percent higher chance of committing a more serious felony upon release.

In the coming weeks, courts will be handling a number of pandemic-related cases involving prisoners, and legislatures will be considering proposals to let large numbers of inmates leave confinement.

(Photo by Flickr user Jobs For Felons Hub, used under a Creative Commons license)

We know the cycle of recidivism in Philadelphia is particularly vehement.

This is a city where 65 percent of returning citizens wind up back in a cell. It’s a city where prisons currently house over 7,000 inmates, 60 percent of whom are incarcerated while awaiting trial.

A new study of inmates in a Texas prison by Penn Law discovered people who are incarcerated because they can’t afford to make bail after committing low-level, nonviolent offenses are 23 percent more likely to commit another misdemeanor.

Thirty percent, however, are more likely to commit a “more serious felony within 18 months of leaving jail,” reports WHYY.

It’s what local prison reform advocate El Sawyer calls the “pull of gravity” — reentrants often come home to environments where poverty reigns and their criminal histories render them unemployable. It’s why reentrants-turned-advocates like Sawyer and REDEEMED founder Bill Cobb are rolling up their sleeves and working in neighborhoods most affected by mass incarceration and the cycle of poverty.

Current policy that keeps low-level offenders without bail money incarcerated is driven more by money than it is public safety, said Pa. Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel last month.

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But the study could soon be less relevant for future Philadelphia: The city is currently reforming its bail system in its MacArthur Foundation-funded effort to cut its prison population by a third.

And federal reform may be on the way, too: This weekend saw an announcement from the Department of Justice that it is “unconstitutional” to keep those who can’t make bail in jail, reports NBC News.



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