New Year's Thought: Go Visit a Prison

Chicago Sun Times columnist Carol Marin tells you why you should visit a prison. That's where I'm headed for the rest of the day, but her reasons are non-legal and very sound. Educate yourselves. See where your money goes. Learn why you should care:

In the next year, a record 42,000 of those inmates are getting out. And unless we do something to address the problem, more than half of that number will be back in jail within three years. That's because they come out, most of them, just as uneducated, untrained and unprepared as when they went in.

Why should we care?

Let's forget about the human cost for a moment and just talk money. Paula Wolff says, ''One out of every 20 dollars in the general revenue fund goes to the Department of Corrections.'' It's staggering. For just one juvenile, it costs $60,000 a year. For the women at Dwight, it's $32,000 a year. At a minimum, for men at Stateville, it's $22,000 a year.

Given the budget crisis facing the State of Illinois, given the budget crisis in all of our schools, we have an urgent reason to do a better job of repatriating felons. That means education, vocational training and drug rehabilitation.

We should be helping these inmates to build a new crime-free life when they are released. The public safety and fiscal responisbility demand it.

And if you haven't made a New Year's resolution yet, here's a thought. Go visit a prison. If nothing else, just to know more about where your money goes.

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