A plan to get us out of the mess we find ourselves in:
I propose we organize underemployed ex-offenders by training them in careers that will give us what our civilization under crises needs (sooner or later anyway). We can both employ them (taking them off the streets), as well as give us what we all need urgently.
This underutilized, often forgotten, usually for forsaken, always scapegoated population can be mobilized to rebuild our social infrastructure, re-energize disintegrating civic culture, advocate for social justice, educate on sustainability, to help create genuine community that humans find a necessary foundation for an integrated life.
This model can be a win-win situation, as it addresses the increasing population of the permanent underclass, while also giving our civilization the badly needed "shot in the arm" that we need to take back our world from the corporate oligarchs and their political lackeys and military henchman who hurl our world headlong into destruction, collapse, and implosion.
Ultimately my thinking on this is to insist that there is no other way but to do it all the way. Both my personal life, civilized existence, and ecological urgency (for the same reasons) all require that the time for cosmetic repairs and reformist attitudes are invariably too little, way too late. Our inaction on repairing our broken world, healing the dying ecosystem, and the cultivation of our own personal lives (mental, spiritual, physical) has brought us to a point in history, where we have to get serious about humanity's next step forward.
This will also address several issues in a fresh, imaginative, and revolutionary way:
By equipping this population to "re-integrate" into society is not inspirational, since it completely begs the question of "reintegrate into WHAT?!" Society and our social-economic configuration already creates tremendous alienation, dissatisfaction, and exploitation, degradation, and humiliation as it is. We cannot rightfully expect any sort of "reintegration" to have a large appeal for this population or for anyone with any dignity, humanity, or authenticity left in their soul.
Such programs to reintegrate this population only serves to actually in the end STRENGTHEN the current corrupt, unjust, unforgiving, racist, and inhumane criminal "justice" system, as it will in the end (if completely successful), take away the negative social and cultural consequences of such a vicious system. That is, if reintegration is made to be 100% successful, then it will not only take away the impetus and reason to change the system, but will strengthen this institution by rendering it effectively unproblematic (from a societal, albeit not an ethical or moral, point of view).
Also, there is nothing expressly religious about the program as I envision it. Homeboy Industry, Detention Ministries, and the Ex-offender Action Network in Southern California are funded and run by religious organization, and to varying degrees have EXPRESSLY religious practices contained within them. This is (rightfully) odious to a sense of justice, democracy, and ethics not informed by historically and institutionally religious forms of ethical imaginations.
Grace Lee Boggs has a discussion with Thomas Frank (What's the Matter with Kansas and Wrecking Crew), and your boy Jim Wallis (on his hunger strike). What she suggests in her new book is that we have to have a "cultural revolution" that rebuilds what's been taken from our humanity. Rebuilding community, interacting with one another in genuinely human ways, and advocating for justice that will help address the powerlessness (that is very real).
2) The Right to Useful Unemployment (Ivan Illich, a clergyman and radical thinker)
The idea that what we really need is unpaid work that is what makes life worth living (artistic, cultural, social movements that make our world a better place that's outside the industrial system)
3) Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Paulo Friere suggests that the purpose of education should be to equip underprivileged and poor to advocate for their own social justice, etc.
4) Beyond Civilization:
The functioning of "tribes" to bring about vast social change by reinventing and reinvigorating culture to "go back" to a sustaining, nourishing life that can also produce the repair that we need.