For previously incarcerated individuals, being released from jail is the start of a new chapter of difficulties when they are unable to access the right resources to reenter society. Due to minimal preparation and inadequate community reentry programs for those previously incarcerated — as well as prejudices from society towards the incarcerated and their families — many find their options limited.
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that over 67% of state and federal prisoners are likely to be rearrested within three years of their release, stating, “with no job, no money, and no place to live, returnees often find themselves facing the same pressures and temptations that landed them in prison in the first place.”
However, there is a growing understanding that resources and programs are needed to help those previously incarcerated reenter society successfully and lower the rates of recidivism. These resources are meant to help the formerly incarcerated and their families break through barriers to reenter society and live happy, productive lives.
Reentry Programs and Resources for Those Previously Incarcerated
One of the most immediate needs when being released from jail is the need for housing if none is available. Depending on the situation, it can be difficult for an individual to find housing. If there are strained familial relationships or current addiction issues, living with family members may not be an option. However, an individual’s record and raising rental prices across the country can keep those previously incarcerated from finding a home. Additionally, myths prevail that those who have been convicted of a crime are “banned” from public housing.
If an individual is not able to live with family in a secure environment, it is important to connect with reentry programs as soon as possible to find available housing.
• The first resource is to connect with their parole officer. Parole officers will be the most in-touch with local resources for those previously incarcerated.
• Catholic Charities USA provides resources for families and individuals who are homeless or in danger of becoming destitute. You do not need to be Catholic to receive assistance.
• Reentry and Housing Coalition provides resources in finding housing — public, private, and transitional — to the formerly incarcerated.
• Volunteers of America also provides housing and additional reentry programs and resources for those formerly incarcerated. With local offices across the country, they have access to more immediately available housing.
• Every state has a Public Housing Authority government office that is responsible for providing housing resources to the local community. These include local Section 8 aid through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
• In some cities, small houses are available to those who are in danger of becoming homeless, including pilot programs in Pinellas, Fl. Google whether there are tiny homes available in your city to see if there are local resources available.
Finding employment when you have been arrested — much less convicted of a crime — can be difficult. While there is a push to remove the disclosure of criminal records from job applications entirely and move background checks further in the employment process to allow those who were previously incarcerated to be considered for their qualifications, many states still allow employers to request your detainment history.
That being said, there are a number of employment resources for those who were previously incarcerated.
• CareerOneStop is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, providing employment resources, including for those previously incarcerated.
• The Fair Shake Reentry Resource Center is a 501(c)(3) charity that helps previously incarcerated individuals find a variety of services, including employment listings specifically for those with a criminal record and resources for those looking to start a business.
• Your local municipality should have resources through the Department of Labor to help those previously incarcerated find employment. Googling your city’s Department of Labor will help you find the correct location. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor provides employment resources.
• For those looking to start their own business or gain additional training for employment, there are available grants that make finding funding and resources easier to expand your skills or get your business idea off the ground.
Gaining an education can help open opportunities for stable employment. While many jails and prisons provide education programs as part of their previous reentry services, there are opportunities for those released to continue their education.
• The Thurman Perry Foundation provides previously incarcerated females with scholarships to help them pursue educational opportunities.
• The Last Prisoner Project provides resources for those who were incarcerated due to the sale or use of cannabis. These resources include educational and professional development support.
Studies have found that approximately 20 percent of those in jail and 15 percent of those in state prisons have serious mental health issues, however, that number does not include those who have a mental illness that is not considered “serious.” Serious mental illness is defined as “a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.”
Even if someone entered jail without substantial mental illness, they may have developed worsening symptoms or new illnesses since becoming incarcerated.
Working with mental health resource services can reduce the possibility of reoffense and help those previously incarcerated lead healthier, happier lives.
• The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — which falls under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services — provides mental health resources, including for those previously incarcerated and their families.
• Volunteers of America provides both mental health and substance abuse services that are also available to those previously incarcerated.
• Mental health services are provided via your state’s Medicaid/Medicare resources. You can call your local office to get connected with in-service mental health providers.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction
A three-year study by Columbia University found that up to 80 percent of those incarcerated — around 1.4 million people — were seriously involved with drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, overcoming addiction is more than just willpower or telling yourself that you can avoid temptation.
There are many resources available to help combat drug and alcohol addiction through the mental health services mentioned above, as well as a few additional key resources.
• The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a confidential, free phone service to help people find substance abuse treatment. Call 1-800-662-4357 to get in touch with a representative.
• Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous provide free meetings and other resources to those dealing with addiction.
How HomeWAV Can Help
One of the greatest resources for those previously incarcerated is to stay connected to their friends and family while serving their prison sentence. HomeWAV provides voice calling, video visitation, and eMessaging to help maintain connection between those incarcerated and their loved ones. Discussing a plan of release early will help ensure a plan of action when your loved one is released. See how easy it is to use our services and reach out to us to get started.