Every movement has its seminal moment-when an insight patently obvious in retrospect begins to come clearly into focus. Prisoner re-entry guru Jeremy Travis places his moment in 1999. He was then director of the National Institute of Justice, and his boss, Attorney General Janet Reno, asked a simple question: ‘What are we doing about all the people coming out of prison?’ No one had a clue. The search for answers subsequently spawned a host of initiatives that may fundamentally alter how society deals with people who have served time. The issue is hardly trivial. On any given day, America locks down some 2.3 million people. And almost all eventually get out. Some 656,000 or so emerge every year; about two thirds of them end up behind bars again. Edward Davis, the top cop in Lowell, Mass., found that scenario profoundly disturbing and resolved to try to change it-at least for Lowell, which ‘hit the skids,’ he says, in the mid-’90s. Crime had risen dramatically, and Davis saw no prospect of ‘locking-up our way out of the problem.’ So the police department adopted a new approach-which entailed visiting each prisoner upon his or her release. The cops delivered a […]

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