Individuals with criminal justice involvement form one of the most disadvantaged populations in the nation. They experience a myriad of challenges and harmful stigmas that prevent them from successfully reentering society. These challenges include accessing education, employment, affordable housing, substance abuse treatment, healthcare, and family services.
Successful reentry involves more than just transitioning from the criminal justice system back into the community. It is something that has long term, lasting effects with a goal of individuals becoming the best version of themselves. Creating a better life is a continual process that is made up of many choices. Choosing to be proactive with reentry planning prior to release from incarceration provides tools and resources to help set a foundation on which future successes can be built. Forgiven Ministries, Inc. assists released individuals with post planning and is an invaluable service that Forgiven Ministries provide by connecting recently release individuals with information, people, and opportunities to addresses each individual’s unique needs in the following areas:
Obtaining safe and affordable housing can be a main concern that many individuals are presented with when they are released from prison. It is important to plan ahead and consider what residential plan will work best and what is needed for this goal to be achieved. Saving money can ensure that when it comes time to leave prison, financial barriers do not hinder success. With all of the changes that happen after release, individuals may become overwhelmed. Transitional living might be a good option that could help alleviate some of the stress by providing continuous, direct support. Working with a Forgiven Ministries will help with identifying resources as well as assistance with setting up plans for appropriate housing options.
Mental Health & Substance Abuse
Having tools and services in place to manage mental wellness can help with success during and after incarceration. Some ways to promote mental wellness are to take all prescribed medications, follow treatment plans, locate a counselor, and identify treatment options. By using talents and strengths positively, developing healthy relationships, investing in spiritual growth, volunteering, and even getting a job can help individuals find purpose and meaning
Affordable health care is a top priority and having affordable care and medications is vital. It is important for each individual to take care of themselves while in prison, including exercising and making good food choices. Good health can have a great impact on success during and after release.
Incarceration Severs Family Bonds
Seeking safety, justice-involved individuals often immediately seek to reconnect with their families upon release. Unfortunately, incarceration can separate individuals from their loved ones for long periods of time. Many are placed in jails and prisons that are located far from their homes, discouraging visitation and communication with their families, and causing children to grow up without the emotional support of their mothers and fathers. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 53% of incarcerated individuals in 2007 were parents of children under age 18. Finding solutions to these disconnects among families is a crucial component of criminal justice reform. Bonds help formerly incarcerated individuals stabilize their lives, serving as vital support systems during their reentry process.
Employment & Education
Many justice-involved individuals are also in need of educational services after incarceration. Approximately 35% of people in prison do not have their high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma, compared to 18% of the general population (Wolf Harlow, C., PhD. 2003). Moreover, one in ten young males who do not finish high school end up in adult jail or juvenile detention, compared to one in 35 high school graduates (Dillon, S. 2009). These individuals, often victims of a failing public education system, fall into a “school to prison pipeline” that severely limits their future opportunities and heightens their susceptibility to recidivate.
Formerly incarcerated jobseekers face challenges when attempting to enter the workforce, too. In addition to addressing competing life needs such as overcoming substance use, homelessness and health issues, they must simultaneously build important skills in a rapidly changing job market. Moreover, there are well-documented biases against hiring within this population. One study conducted found that a criminal record reduced the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50% (Pager, Western & Bonikowski, 2009).
In fact, nearly all of our participants have little or no income, and urgently need assistance to obtain living wage employment.
Working toward goals begins now. Being incarcerated does not mean that accomplishments are overlooked. Positive actions taken while incarcerated can have a major impact on life in the community as well as future opportunities. An individual with a prison job can improve skill sets and build work ethic. Getting an education, GED, computer skills, interview skills, a turnaround letter, and attending résumé writing classes are also opportunities that can be utilized. There are many resources here in Erie that can help you prepare for the job or career you want to have.
Family & Social Support
Forming and nurturing healthy support systems with the people that want you to succeed plays a vital role in successful reentry. Taking time to build and repair relationships with family, friends, and community can increase current and future success. Reentry can be easier if there is a positive support system in place due to the encouragement and stability that can be provided to the individual. Other options for support systems include members of faith based organizations, pro-social activities, mentors, and peers.
Hobbies & Leisure Activities
Boredom can be a concern for both those incarcerated as well as individuals that have been released from prison. Developing interests and talents can help with success by providing enjoyable opportunities for personal expression, stress relief, and developing skills.
Parole or Post-Release Supervision (PRS) may be a part of an individual’s reentry plan. Reentering the community after any period of incarceration may present challenges and temptations. Community supervision provides assistance and support as well as promoting accountability as individuals transition to life outside of prison. Since Parole is discretionary, program participation is often a requirement of Parole. It is recommended to participate in all advised/required programs to help facilitate success.
Post-Release Supervision (PRS) is applicable to individuals that have been ordered to serve a determined amount of time under the supervision of the PBPP after they have completed their time with the DOC. The purpose of PRS is to ensure that as a part of a determinate sentence, a post-release supervision plan is created to offer a smooth, meaningful, and comprehensive transition of parolees and probationers from a term of incarceration to community supervision. Each individual is assigned a Parole / Probation Officer who will assist with planning for the best options in order to promote success.
Homelessness After Prison
Finding affordable housing is another obstacle that formerly incarcerated people must overcome. Given their poor access to education and employment, it is no surprise that homelessness is 7.5 to 11.3 times more prevalent for formerly incarcerated people than it is for the general public (Greenberg & Rosenheck 2008). These figures are likely much higher in New York City, where the demand for affordable housing far outstrips its availability. The issue is compounded by policies implemented by Housing Authorities, which can bar people with criminal histories from entering public housing units regardless of the nature of their crimes.