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These Programs Are Helping Fix A Broken U.S. Prison System

Most experts would argue the U.S. prison system is in need of change, and a number of programs are tackling this challenge in cities nationwide.

A study by the Vera Institute of Justice released on Wednesday found that local and county jails across the country are being misused. Instead of holding people who are viewed as a flight risk or too dangerous to release while waiting for trial, jails have become filled with those who are too poor to afford bail and people with mental health issues or a history of drug addiction, the report found. On any given day, the number of people housed in local facilities has spiked from 224,000 in 1983 to 731,000 in 2013.

And the problems continue on a broader scale.

In 2013, about 1,574,000 prisoners were in state and federal prisons, according to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). As Think Progress reported, America has the largest prison population in the world.

For many prisoners, time spent behind bars isn’t a one-time affair either. Inmates who break the law repeatedly can spend years going in and out of the system. Last year, a study by BJS found that 67.8 percent of former state prisoners who were released in 2005 were re-arrested within three years, according to The Daily Beast. That figure shot up to 76.6 percent when considering those who were re-arrested within five years of their release.

There are several programs across the country, however, that are restoring justice and empowering inmates so they can benefit society on the outside. Here are six initiatives helping fix America’s broken prison system.

Texas Program Arms Its Inmates With Business Skills

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Richard Chavez Jr. — the fourth member of his family to spend time in prison — is stopping his past from dictating his future. The former gang member has benefited from a program run out of the Cleveland Correctional Facility near Houston that helps inmates develop business skills for life after prison.

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) focuses on changing inmate behavior and aims to lessen the likelihood people like Chavez will end up back behind bars, the Associated Press reported. It teaches skills valuable in an entrepreneurial setting — like writing a business plan and finding financing to launch — and is making a measurable…

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