The cost of jailing is about $27,000 per inmate per year. The cost of drug, behavioral and mental health treatment averages about $4,500 per year. About 20 percent of all Americans and almost two-thirds of inmates have some kind of mental health problems. Half of those needing behavioral or mental health care cannot find or afford it. A full Bannock County jail (264 beds) could cost taxpayers over $7 million annually. Mental health treatment for 264 people could cost about $1.2 million.
Why does our jail stay full? Drugs, alcohol and mental problems often trigger bad behavior, arrest and jailing. Statistics show that two-thirds of inmates with drug or alcohol addiction will be re-arrested and many back in jail within 36 months after release. Most addicts who are not treated are motivated to consider illegal ways of funding bad habits so are part of prison recycling. Untreated mental health issues add to the problem. The Idaho Department of Correction Director Kevin Kempf said in Pocatello recently that too many people are in jail and something needs to change. He said, “Justice reinvestment is sweeping the country.” Kempf cited many reform opportunities to keep our communities safer, help people avoid or recover from crime and reduce taxpayer cost.
Restorative practices address misbehavior in families, schools and society as immediate response to wrongdoing. Restorative practices are strong on accountability and result in wrongdoers being motivated to rebuild good relationships in groups including with the people they have hurt by their wrongs. Restorative practice and justice have dramatically reduced suspensions and expulsions in School District 25. They are making a significant impact in diverting youthful offenders from judicial sentencing and jail in Bannock County. Training is expanding the cadre of people with knowledge, skill and ability to facilitate restorative circles, serve on success teams and as mentors….
As I age and live on income with limited cost-of-living increases, I see justice reinvestment as a terrific lever, $7 to $1, to reduce my taxes.
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