On August 1, the Tech insider reported that Mark Zuckerberg wants to spend his billions reforming education, housing, and criminal justice. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan has already made substantial investments in education, but their criminal justice initiatives are just beginning.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), has donated funds to Measures for Justice, a non-profit organization. The United States justice system is fragmented. We do not have one system of American justice ( federal, state, and local, over 3,000 counties). The powers in charge cannot answer fundamental questions about how many people were shot by the police or how many Americans have criminal records.
Amy Bach, the founder of the non-profit behind the tool, Measures of Justice, stated, “Our motto is ‘no data, no change.’”
Zuckerberg’s contribution to Measures of Justice is one step in reforming our broken system of justice, but Zuckerberg can do so much more.
Let the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative reform our broken system of justice by contributing to prevention, rehabilitation, and re-entry.
85% of of the United States prison population have serious addiction issues. Drugs and alcohol addictions, directly or indirectly, have helped cause inmate’s offenses. The 2010 Columbia report revealed that drugs and alcohol in 2006 contributed to the following offenses:
- 78% of violent crimes
- 83% of property crimes
- 77% of public order, immigration or weapon offenses; and probation/parole violations
Rehabilitation is defined as “To teach (a criminal in prison) to live a normal and productive life.” For decades our penal system has had a schizophrenic battle between punishment and rehabilitation. It may not be politically correct, but think of our prisons as factories. If the prison factory is focused only on punishment within a brutal environment, then the product, a released inmate, will probably commit a crime. If a prison focuses on effective rehabilitation programs such as education, addiction programs, psychological help for the mentally ill, and job education, the returning citizen shall have the tools to become a productive member of society.
Without effective re-entry programs; effective rehabilitation will not succeed and recidivism will remain high. Many returning citizens need a safe–stable place to stay upon their release. Many returning citizens will need continuing drug and alcohol treatment, and mental health care. Currently, a criminal record will reduce drastically their chances for employment. In some states, the unemployment rate for released inmates is 50 percent.
Now is not the time to take small steps, let Zucherberg-Chan use their billions to reform our broken system of justice and really change the largest prison system in the world.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com