Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hire an ex-con, get a tax break

We all know our taxes help pay for necessary societal services, such as building and maintaining highways, paying the salaries of law enforcement officers and running the jails that house some of the folks lawmen catch.

And now, in addition to collecting taxes to help operate its lock-up, Philadelphia is offering a tax credit that it hopes will lessen the need for the facility.

Philly Mayor Michael Nutter
announced last month a program that gives $10,000
a year in municipal tax credits to companies that hire former prisoners
and provide them tuition support or vocational training.

"This is one of the best crime-prevention programs we'll ever have," Nutter said.

Spend some now to save more later: The reasoning is that it is more cost-effective to spend some tax money to help ex-felons find and keep jobs than to keep spending it to lock them up again if they revert to crime because they can't find any other options.

For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults
is in state or federal jail or prison, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice. The study also cites federal statistics showing that nearly two-thirds of released inmates are expected to be
rearrested within three years.

"The spending on corrections is consuming a larger and larger percentage of state and local budgets," Michael Thompson, director of the Council of State Governments Justice Center, told the Associated Press. "When you're spending it on this, you're not spending it on other government priorities."

Other cities, similar approaches: In addition to Philadelphia's tax-driven efforts, Baltimore, Chicago and San Francisco have agencies dedicated to ex-offenders. Oregon and Oklahoma established statewide councils last year to study initiatives to help former prisoners re-enter society.

And on the federal level, the Second Chance Act became law in April. It authorizes more than $330 million over two years to help government agencies and nonprofit groups lower recidivism.

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