To use the term “correctional” to describe our penal system is truly an oxymoron. The majority of prisoners’ criminal behavior is anything but “corrected” upon release.

Bureau of Justice Statistics studies have found high rates of recidivism among released prisoners. One study, “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994,” tracked 272,111 prisoners in 15 states after their release in 1994. The researchers found that within three years:

67.5 percent were rearrested (almost exclusively for felonies or serious misdemeanors).

Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2 percent); those in prison for possessing, using or selling illegal weapons (70.2 percent); burglars (74.0 percent); larcenists (74.6 percent); those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4 percent), and motor vehicle thieves (78.8 percent).

The United States imprisons more people per 100,000 residents than any other country in the world. Prisons have become overcrowded, costing taxpayers a bundle.

Prisoners learn very few marketable skills. Once released, they have very little money and face a world where any kind of conviction disqualifies them from getting a job that pays enough to support themselves and their families.

To remove the first barrier to gainful employment, a prisoner’s record should be held in confidence, just as with a medical record.

Secondly, prisoners should be trained in a useful skill. Minimal-risk prisoners should be allowed to work in and outside prison to pay for their room and board and save a little to support themselves upon release.

Congress should bring back the minimum wage to 50 percent of the average American wage, as it was in 1968. In today’s money, that would be approximately $10.50 an hour.

We need change now. “It is insanity to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” Albert Einstein said.

Patrick Eisenhart

Augusta