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This county is cutting the cost of prison on taxpayers by offering inmates more support

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WASHINGTON (Circa) - According to the Vera Institute of Justice, it costs U.S taxpayers $33,274 a year on average to house just one inmate.

"Among the 45 states that provided data (representing 1.29 million of the 1.33 million total people incarcerated in all 50 state prison systems), the total cost per inmate averaged $33,274 and ranged from a low of $14,780 in Alabama to a high of $69,355 in New York. Eight states—Alaska, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—had a cost per inmate above $50,000.14 Eighteen, mostly southern, states had costs less than $25,000, while 19 states had costs between $25,000 and $50,000."

Whether or not prisons should spend money on programs that can improve an inmate while they’re incarcerated like anger management, drug treatment, education, vocation training, and sex offender relapse prevention has been debated for years. Critics argue that if someone commits a crime, they deserve to be punished and taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to pay to make their lives better.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at least 95 percent of all state prisoners will be released from prison and back into the public at some point.

The more criminals get rearrested, the more it costs taxpayers.

A report by the National Institute of Justice found that within three years of release, about 67.8 percent of inmates are rearrested. Within five years of release, about 76.6 percent are rearrested and more than half are rearrested within the first year of their release.

A pilot program in Cincinnati, Ohio hopes to change that and so far, it has experienced success.

Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen and Jail Commander Jason Sloderbeck launched the Exit Pod program because after going through the numbers, they realized it was significantly cheaper to provide inmates support because the chances of them re-offending is higher without them.

“The sheriff got wind of this idea and through a series of meetings decided this would be a great collaboration to not only warehouses inmates but it became a place that is also instrumental in their success once they are released,” Don Evans, an inmate programmer at the jail told our affiliate WKRC.

The three biggest challenges for former inmates upon re-entry into society are housing medical care (which includes addiction treatment) and employment. Without one of those three things, the chance of ending up back in jail grow exponentially.

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Dominic Hardy is an inmate currently in the jail's "Exit Pod" program. He's set to be released in the new couple of weeks and he says the program has given him hope or a better life.

“If you get the core and that’s what exit pod is doing, getting to the core. Get to the reason why you can’t keep a job. The reason you do the drugs or the reason you do your criminal activity."

90 days before their release, Inmates are invited to move into the "Exit Pod." The inmates live and work together with volunteers who provide them job and legal assistance, housing help upon release, therapy while they're inside and a peer mentoring program that links each inmate with someone on the outside who can continue to provide them emotional support and advice on improving their life.

“Exit pod is basically like people need it who can’t get a job," Hardy said. "Who can’t just walk-in there and be like hey, I have these qualities. I have these abilities. But I do have a felony. And people they say they’re not suppose to discriminate against us, but they do.”

A major part of the "Exit Pod" is focused on finding inmates a job once released. The Transitioning Opportunities for Work, Education, and Reality (TOWER) program "provides inmates with career and job skills designed to increase chances of long-term employment." The program is funded by a federal grant provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training. Funds provide for two Career Coaches at the Hamilton County Jail over an 18 month period, in which an estimated 200 inmates participate.

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