Across our county, many community members are concerned with the incarcerated population. Their concerns are well founded, not just for those who are within the prison system but for their families also. We know from existing research that kids within families with experience in the corrections system have a higher probability of engaging in the kinds of risky behaviors that can lead to incarceration. It’s bad enough to have one family member impacted, but worse for multiple generations. It’s a concern for the entire community, not just those directly impacted.
Recidivism is also a concern. Our Freeholders, County Prosecutor, a number of community-based organizations, and concerned citizens have worked together to make great strides in reducing the recidivism rate. Working with Rutgers University, the County has working groups that meet regularly to make measurable and preventative differences in the lives of our youth. The outcomes of such efforts would be enhanced significantly if coupled with robust higher education opportunities for those locked up and their at-risk families.
Consider this: a person sitting in jail has ample free time. Without a trade, technical, or vocational skill, or even an associate degree, when they are freed they are much more likely to engage in the kinds of behavior that landed them in a cell to begin with. With some sort of credential, they have hope and the opportunity to earn an honest living. This is why as President of the College, I support the reinstatement of the federal Pell grant for incarcerated people. It is good for the individual, good for the local economy, and good for other honest taxpayers who help support those in need. It is in our best communal interest to see to it that folks are given the opportunity for redemption and the means for dignified, honest work.
While some may have good intentions of leading an honest life upon release, without the skill, the means, and the opportunity, intentions never become reality. Cumberland County College is committed to educating all people for the purpose of a healthy, safe, and self-sustaining community.
Previously published on thedailyjournal.com on March 30, 2017.