Safe Neighborhoods, Substance Abuse, and Economic Growth
Approximately one-third of Alabama’s prison population was originally a Jefferson County resident. And, most prison inmates return to their old neighborhood when they’re released. Neighborhood violence, substance abuse, unemployment, and no High School diploma, are common themes that connect the vast majority of Alabama’s prison population.
Rutgers University is a partner in a program that targets New Jersey’s prison recidivism rate. They not only work with the inmate, but they also reach out and work with the families. After eight years this unique program has helped reduce New Jersey’s prison population from 33,000 inmates to 23,000.
(Approximately 60% of Alabama’s General Fund Budget is currently consumed by operating costs associated with Medicaid and State Prisons).
Why couldn’t Birmingham’s UAB use the Rutgers’ model to target prison inmates and their families in Jefferson County neighborhoods? Think about the economic growth that would begin in those targeted Jefferson County neighborhoods. (I am convinced that Alabama’s Prison population and Medicaid roster are connected by a lot of the same communities). Education and professional guidance would create a pride and confidence that would drive out generations of drug addiction and violence.