The prison system of the United States is locking up more people than any other nation on earth. New York State spends $60,000 per year on each inmate it houses. In the Hudson Valley, the city of Newburgh is a community in distress: a high rate of unemployment, poverty and high-school dropouts mar its image. Social services are seen as placing their unwanted clients there and offering little support for the rest of the city, effectively abandoning it. In response, we propose to reallocate certain resources from the prison system into Newburgh and other cities facing similar circumstances in the region, such as Middletown and Poughkeepsie.
The Newburgh Path allows offenders of non-violent crime with sentences of three years or less to be diverted from traditional imprisonment and instead be housed under various levels of observation and engagement within Newburgh. Through a series of steps, candidates in the program are reintegrated into society incrementally through job training, adult education and other initiatives. The infrastructure used to facilitate this process is shared with and available to the public in the form of vocational workspace, recreation and meeting space. Such efforts, if successful, could help eradicate this region’s problem with cyclical incarceration by shifting the focus from addressing its symptoms to addressing its causes.