There are almost 7 million formerly incarcerated people living in the U.S. today. While most people are released with minimal reentry support, a smaller group has the opportunity to participate in a more purpose-built solution to re-enter society.
Thinking about the journey each person had to take to re-enter their communities and what programs helped them do so led us to write this 2 part series. The series will shed light on the reentry process and the people and programs that play a part. Please enjoy Part 1 of the series below.
When most people think of what happens when a citizen returns home from the U.S. correctional system's supervision, they may think of reunions of families and the chance at a fresh start.
However, the reality isn't always as rosy as we may think. Being a formerly incarcerated person can mean that society views them as a weight on the community, someone who is likely to return to prison, or as someone unable to change. When formerly incarcerated persons are released, they often find no support system, no pathway forward, and increased stigma that follows them everywhere. This lack of support and guidance can lead those trying to rebuild their lives penalized for the lost opportunity for them to become a part of the workforce of tomorrow.
In a world where people are afforded a fair first chance at life with the necessary resources, support, education, and counseling, spending time in the correctional system wouldn't be a barrier to rising as much as a blip in your history. Until then, reentry programs fill the gap.
What defines a reentry program? What are the benefits of hiring formerly incarcerated citizens from them? Where can returning citizens find the resources they need? Read along to find out!
What defines a reentry program?
Reentry programs are designed to assist incarcerated individuals with a successful transition to their community after release. They provide the bridge between the correctional system and the community at large for formerly incarcerated persons. Right now, according to PrisonPolicy.org, there are 2.3 million U.S. citizens that are currently in the correctional system in some form. When they rejoin the general population, unfortunately, there's no guarantee that they won't recidivate. The National Institute of Justice states that "an estimated 68% of released prisoners were arrested within three years, 79% within six years, and 83% within nine years." The current correction system isn't always designed to rehabilitate the community they confine. Therefore when people are returning to their communities, they aren't given the resources or the pathways to ensure they stay out of the correctional system. Navigating the unfamiliar red-tape of interacting with the government and trying to rebuild a life put on hold due to their circumstances creates an environment where people are destined to return to jail instead of getting on with the rest of their lives. This is why local governments, police departments, and many nonprofits focus specifically on making this transition as successful as possible, leading to lower recidivism rates.
What does a reentry program look like? Reentry programs are specifically focused on providing immediate support in their community's critical first days to them getting all of their needs met. These programs can target either one or many aspects of reentry (e.g., just housing or addressing substance use, education, and employment). There are three types of reentry as defined by the Charles Koch Institute:
What do reentry programs do to ease the hiring process for formerly incarcerated citizens?
Some reentry programs work to dispel myths and misconceptions around hiring formerly incarcerated persons, an often untapped pool of talent of 75 million people. Frankly, it's been widely documented how difficult it is to transition from being incarcerated to civilian life and the stigma and discrimination that follows during this process. However, companies that have adjusted their hiring practices to focus more on a candidate's present rather than past have seen tangible and intangible benefits. Informing employers of these benefits helps to motivate them like:
Where can returning citizens find the resources they need?
Returning citizens need a central place to find the resources they need for a successful transition and an easy-to-navigate system to find employers who are specifically looking for candidates like them. Those returning can find a collection of resources like those found on RiseKit, or they can work with an established reentry specific nonprofit like Defy Ventures. Defy Ventures is making it their mission to help millions of formerly incarcerated people to live the lives they're destined to live, and they've partnered with RiseKit to make it easier. Another partner, Kane County, created a job board to make it easier for returning citizens in the Kane County area to find employers looking to hire people with a criminal background. If you're looking for resources to support the formerly incarcerated people in your community, or you're looking for them yourself, check out what RiseKit has to offer by signing up!