DOJ To Release Some 6,000 Nonviolent Inmates From Federal Prison
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
So now we've heard about this discussion about reducing incarceration. Let's talk now about what happens to prisoners after their sentences are over. Next weekend, 6,000 federal prisoners are set for release, one of the largest mass releases ever. We recently spoke with two people about what these men and women may face after they get out. Stanley Richards is the senior vice president of the Fortune Society and a former inmate himself. His organization helps prisoners get back on their feet with housing and jobs after they are released. Saquan Dubose also joined us. He was released from prison several months ago after serving more than three years in state prison. And I started by asking Mr. Richards about his own experience in the criminal justice system.
STANLEY RICHARDS: My last incarceration, I was convicted of robbery, and I was sentenced to four and a half to nine years. And prior to that, I spent my whole life cycling in and out of jail. It wasn't until my last incarceration when I went to school and obtained my GED and went on to graduate from college that I started seeing a path forward. I started seeing a way out of the life that I'd lived on the streets and in the prisons.
MARTIN: OK, Mr. Dubose, I'm going to turn to you now since you're recently out. Can you walk us through the first day? Like, what's the first day like when you...
SAQUAN DUBOSE: Well...
MARTIN: ...First come out?
DUBOSE: ...The first day coming out, well, they give you a clean set of clothes. They give you $40 and a bus ticket. So you will ride the bus. Depending on where you're coming from, it'll be a number of hours. You get to the city, and then you realize the value of money is not what it was when you were at home. So you go in the store and that same little piece of candy that may have cost five cents now is probably a dollar. You know, the money has basically no value now. So if you see that, then you need transportation, so you need a Metro card. It's really a lot of running around. The first stop will be parole. And more than likely you're released to some shelter. So you have to be there between a certain time so they can do your intake. And that's really pretty much the first day. It's a lot to take on, like it can really be overwhelming for someone that's been there a long time.
MARTIN: You know, under the Justice Department program that is releasing the 6,000 people early, most of those eligible for early release have served an average of nine years, OK? So nine years - what is that - in terms of the trajectory how hard it's going to be...
RICHARDS: Just imagine the speed in which technology changes. They're coming home to a new world. They're coming home to a new place - a new place to compete economically, to find jobs. The skills and experiences they had before they went in probably are not relevant today. Housing probably is a huge challenge. Many of them after eight or nine years either don't have family because family passed on or their ties to family have been messed up. And then third is mental health. Prison is significant trauma, and people have to deal with that. So people come home trying to reclaim their lives. It's extremely challenging.
MARTIN: You know, under this program, as many as 40,000 people might be coming out early in the coming years. When you think about what it is that people need and how many people are going to need it, are you optimistic or pessimistic about how well this is going to go? I mean, just be honest.
RICHARDS: There's not enough resources to deal with the need. But the resources that are available for those who walk in, they can find their way to reclaiming their life. So I'm optimistic that we can get it right.
MARTIN: Well, how would you say you're doing, Mr. Dubose? You doing - how would you say you're doing?
DUBOSE: I'm doing fairly well. I've been working as a residential aid. Today, I've just been offered a full-time spot for maintenance, so I'm going to start that in about another week.
MARTIN: Oh, congratulations.
DUBOSE: Thank you. I'm in the transitional program. You know, they helped me build my resume, they helped me with clothing, you know, transportation, the things that I need to start my life over again. I've been in constant contact with my mother, even though she's in Virginia. Our relationship is going well. You know, it's been a struggle in the beginning.
MARTIN: All right, well, good luck, keep in touch. Let us know how you're doing.
MARTIN: Saquan Dubose was released from prison just three months ago. Stanley Richards is senior vice president at the Fortune Society. That's a group that advocates for and offers service to inmates and newly-released men and women. And they spoke with us from the NPR bureau in New York. Mr. Richards, Mr. Dubose, thank you so much for speaking with us.
RICHARDS: Thank you, Michel.
DUBOSE: You're welcome. Thank you.
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