All this week MSNBC is taking a look at the black agenda and efforts to build a stronger America . Today we’re going to focus on the challenge ex-offenders are facing. Todd Johnson talks with two young men struggling to beat the odds and get their lives back on track. Good day to you, Todd.
Thank you, Richard, and you, too. With billions and billions of dollars spent on prisons each year and recidivism rates remaining high, critics say incarceration alone is just not working, so i took a look at a new york program giving those caught up in the criminal justice system a chance to change their lives, turn their lives around, by making college possible.
Reporter: at just 21 years old Brandon Johnson ‘s life is already at a crossroads. his life changed from four years ago as a senior in high school. He was charged with gang assault and robbery, a crime he says he witnessed but had no involvement in.
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, if you just happen to be at the wrong place and the wrong time. it can definitely happen to you.
Reporter: after he graduated from high school , the felony schar charge cost him his job as an early child care worker. In December 2010 his conviction led other potential employers to follow suit.
You have your resume and they look at your resume and they go, all right, and then they look at the background check and it’s like that might be you in society. This is what you have done before but this seems more up to date. so this is who you are and then you’re cut short.
The United States has an estimated 14 million ex-offend ex-offenders of working age whose job prospects are considerably lower than those
All you have to do is attend school and get the grades.
Those slim odds brought Brandon here, orientation day at a new york-based program to help those somehow involved in the criminal justice system . The program known as college initiative is a chance to make higher education and eventually employment a reality for people like Brandon .
I think for our population in particular, they’ve made the step to say I’m ready to overcome and that’s really I think how our students have a good chance of succeeding.
Reporter: David is proof. He served 9 1/2 years on manslaughter and weapons charges, earned his GED in prison and came to this program looking for a new start.
I’m in school. not only am i in school, i’m in my third semester. i know for me to advance in life, i need to further my education.
Reporter: but programs like college initiative aren’t the norm. america now has 7.3 million adults under some type of correctional supervision at a cost of more than $50 billion to state governments . Only a small fraction of that money is spent on programs to help ex offender’s transition back into society.
Recidivism rates have remained high 60s, 60% i mean, for 30 years, 40 years. If people were really serious about the tax dollars, it’s cheaper to rehab and support programs and think about second chances and opportunities than it is to send them back into the system.
Reporter: Brandon is awaiting sentencing in his case, but he isn’t wasting any time moving beyond his record. Where will you be at this exact same time in 2012 .
2012 ? What time is it?
Possibly getting out of one of my science classes hopefully. On my way to lunch.
Reporter: Brandon says a college degree may not change everyone’s
perception of who he is, but it’s a start. Some of the 90% of the program students attend colleges within New York City ‘s public university system and nearly 75% of those are majoring in social service related fields. Many telling me they want to give back.
Great to see that resilience in that story. thank you very much. and you can find out much more about ex offenders and rehabilitation on the grio.com and we invite you to tune in Sunday for “a stronger America” hosted by MSNBC’s Ed Schultz right here on MSNBC. Don’t miss that.
Duration : 0:4:28