Each year, more than 700,000 people are released from state and Federal prison, while another 9 million cycle through local jails. Statistics indicate that more than two-thirds of state prisoners are rearrested within three years of their release and half are re-incarcerated. High rates of recidivism mean more crime, more victims, and more pressure on an already overburdened criminal justice system. Reentry programs are designed to assist incarcerated individuals with a successful transition to their community after they are released.
Funded by the Second Chance Act of 2008, and launched by the Council of State Governments Justice Center in 2009, the National Reentry Resource Center provides education, training, and technical assistance to states, tribes, territories, local governments, service providers, non-profit organizations, and corrections institutions working on prisoner reentry. For more information on this click on the link to go to The National Reentry Resource Center.
The Need for a Collaborative Approach to Offender Reentry
Source: Engaging in Collaborative Partnerships to Support Reentry
Author: Madeline M. Carter, Center for Effective Public Policy
In recent years, corrections agencies have become increasingly cognizant of the complex dimensions of offender reentry, and the importance of partnerships in addressing these issues.
Some of the most profound among the barriers to successful reentry include:
Lack of education. 35% of prisoners released from prison do not have a high school diploma or GED, and a large portion (80%) do not have any postsecondary education, despite the growing importance of a college education to obtaining employment.2
Lack of job skills and employment barriers. While many inmates held legal jobs prior to coming to prison, they may lose their skills while incarcerated. Furthermore, the stigma of being in prison coupled with an inconsistent employment history may prevent them from finding employment once they are released to the community.
Alcohol and Drug Addiction. Offenders are four times more likely to have substance abuse problems than the general population,5 which can interfere with successful reentry into the community. At least half of state and federal prisoners meet DSM-IV criteria for drug abuse or dependence.
Mental Health Issues. More than half of incarcerated adults exhibit mental health problems, with women inmates being disproportionally affected. Fifty-five percent (55%) of male adult inmates exhibit mental health problems, while 73% of women inmates do. Furthermore, of those with mental health disorders, a majority also have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder.
Housing. It is estimated that about one-tenth of offenders entering prison have experienced homelessness and about the same percentage leave prison facing the same reality.
Childcare. Fifty-five percent (55%) of inmates have children under 18 years of age. For offenders who are primary caregivers, transition to the community includes the stressful event of reunification with children, as well as the pressure to once again provide for them physically, emotionally, and financially.
Transportation. Offenders returning to the community often struggle to find adequate transportation; this is problematic when they are expected to access services and report to jobs that may be located in remote locations where public transportation is not available.
Identification. For offenders who are released from prison without identification, obtaining appropriate housing, employment, and public assistance is a challenge if not impossible. Clearly, corrections agencies cannot address these reentry barriers on their own – nor should they. Other stakeholders, those with greater expertise and perhaps more extensive and specific resources to address these barriers, must be brought to the table to engage in the development of meaningful solutions to the reentry challenge if the justice system is to be successful in effectively preparing offenders for post-release success.
Clearly a multi-agency, multi-sector approach is needed to appropriately and systemically assist with these barriers for long term outcomes.
Palm Beach County’s Transition from Jail to Community (TJC) Project
The Center for Strategic Philanthropy & Civic Engagement worked with Mr. Elivio Serrano, Mr. Daniel Gibson, Mrs. Diana Stanley and a dedicated group of agencies, institutions, and organizations in Palm Beach County, Florida to review the research, trends, resource usage, and data to provide a comprehensive gap analysis on this issue. The gap analysis was reported to the community, and a recommendation was made to implement a holistic model to support effective reentry for nonviolent offenders, including these core areas: