Though I would continue asking, if not begging, people for money for our reentry programs, I grew increasingly frustrated that my economic argument failed so often with government leaders. It often seemed like when it came to criminal justice expenditures—just as is the case in infrastructure development, early childhood education, and countless other areas—our society would much rather pay an obscene amount of money on the back end of a problem than pay a relatively small amount up front on evidence-based programs that would prevent the problem from happening in the first place. It was clear to me that the money we were investing in reentry in Newark was creating a significant savings for state and federal taxpayers. But it didn’t give stability to many of our programs. In fact, my overreliance on philanthropy would jeopardize the long-term security of the programs. This was not a sustainable strategy. We wouldn’t run our police department, courts, jails, or prisons on philanthropy, yet another vital component of our criminal justice system was being run on generous yet unreliable charities.
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