Chairwoman Creem, Chairman O’Flaherty, and members of the Committee, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Committee today. I am here in support of H. 1489, A Legislation to Establish Certain Prerelease Programs for Female Inmates of Correctional Institutions. This is a relatively simple piece of legislation. The General Laws currently permits incarcerated individuals who are within eighteen months of parole eligibility to take part in education, training or employment programs outside of correctional facilities. There are detailed provisions for screening inmates for eligibility in these programs. However, there is no requirement in the General Laws that would require the actual existence of these programs outside of correctional facilities.
H.1489 would take an important step in ensuring that these important education, training and employment programs are available for eligible inmates. This bill would require programs that are equipped to train and educate offenders prior to release exist outside of correctional facilities for female inmates. The programs would have to provide practical training for female inmates that would be tailored to their skills for securing meaningful employment after release.
The importance of these programs is clear. Comprehensive studies have shown that most inmates in Massachusetts are ill-prepared to reenter the community and become productive citizens. The current lack of employment and training programs outside of prisons has a devastating effect on the communities that become home to these unemployable ex-inmates. Without appropriate education and training for these inmates, who will soon be leaving prison, there is a high probability that their inability to gain meaningful employment will lead to recidivism and a revolving door in and out of prison that costs all of our communities dearly.
Ex-inmates face numerous barriers in seeking employment following their release. The criminal record exclusion, a lack of housing and transportation and chronic health problems often stand between an ex-inmate and a good job. By ensuring that this program exists, in the community, inmates will have the opportunity to work toward overcoming these barriers.
The fact of the matter is, that these employment and training programs are not commonly available outside of correctional facilities today. The General Laws already encourage participation in these programs, so now we need to make sure they are out there and providing appropriate services.
If these programs are made available we can all look forward to seeing many more women, who have led troubled lives, become productive citizens, parents and taxpayers. It is plain that if we invest in these programs, the returns will be substantial.
Thank you for your consideration on this important matter. I respectfully request that the Committee adopt a favorable report for H. 1489 as expeditiously as possible.