Giving people a second chance in life is not just good social policy but—given the steep costs of putting people behind bars—also the responsible thing for the state to do.

CBIA this week testified in support of SB 952, which embodies many of the criminal justice reforms the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century recommended in a report identifying ways to produce better outcomes and make more efficient use of tax dollars.

It costs Connecticut taxpayers approximately $50,000 a year to house, feed, and care for every prison inmate—which ironically is also what it costs for a year of in-state tuition for two students at the University of Connecticut.

What’s more, approximately 70% of the average daily cost per inmate goes to corrections employees’ pay and benefits. (for 2008-2009; Assessment of Connecticut’s Correction, Parole and Probation Systems,” Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century, 2011).

As the Institute said, corrections reforms offer Connecticut the opportunity to take advantage of a wide range of benefits—reducing costs in one of the biggest areas of state spending, making government work better, and helping nonviolent men and women reintegrate into society and build productive lives.

The governor’s “Second Chance'' initiative is a positive alternative to continuing to invest huge sums to incarcerate nonviolent offenders.

Connecticut can also learn a lot from other states’ best practices, such as Michigan’s Prison Reentry Initiative along with reforms in Oregon and South Carolina, to bring down costs, reduce recidivism, and increase public safety. Done well, corrections reforms also will afford nonviolent ex-offenders the opportunity to turn their lives around and productively reintegrate into society.

For too many nonviolent ex-offenders, gaining employment is practically impossible. The best and most effective way to give someone the second chance to be a productive member of society is to ensure access to job and housing opportunities.

All of this requires collaboration from state agencies, business organizations, the education community, and social services nonprofits. But a Second Chance society is a good investment in changing lives and making Connecticut more fiscally responsible.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Louise DiCocco at 860 244.1169 or louise.dicocco@cbia.com.