2017-08-10 / Editorial

Let’s kick off the Get Out and Stay Out initiative

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

Despite the valiant efforts of our hardworking corrections staff and probation officers, there is very little support for former inmates to re-enter society as productive citizens. The problem can be most challenging in our jails, where shorter sentences are served, versus our prisons, which have longer stays and the opportunity for more formalized programs.

The failure to keep former inmates out of jail is very, very expensive. It costs as much as $50,000 per year to house a prisoner. It’s like letting people out of the hospital before they are ready. This is the same kind of thing and the lion’s share of the money comes from property taxes.

At the same time, area employers are suffering from severe staffing shortages. How much could we save if we developed a system to get people back on their feet, working in their community and finding success in meaningful employment?

That’s why, in collaboration with York County Sheriff Bill King, over the next few months I will work to convene businesses, legislators, nonprofits and law enforcement leaders to take this difficult problem on. There are good people working hard on this issue – the challenge is to get us all working together. That’s what I hope to do. To be successful, I will talk to employers, members of law enforcement, nonprofits, churches, legal professionals – everyone with an interest and a way to help. I’m calling the effort Get Out and Stay Out. It is based on a proven employment-based re-entry program developed at Riker’s Island Jail in New York. If they can do it there, we can do it here.

If we are successful, there is both a social benefit and a financial benefit. We can reduce property taxes, decrease stress on our overcrowded county jails, and get people back on their feet and supporting – rather than negatively impacting – our communities.

If this idea interests you and you would like to get involved, please contact me at martin.grohman@legislature.maine.gov.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Outside the legislature, he is chair of the Biddeford Solid Waste Commission (note that Biddeford’s Household Hazardous Waste Day is Saturday September 9). Marty also hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show, available on Apple Podcasts. Sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or facebook.com/repgrohman.

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