The Perfect Reentry Plan
By Kelli R. – Research Intern
Everyone needs a second chance at least once in a single lifetime. A second chance is effort amongst both parties ready to tackle the next steps together. Second chances require responsibility, accountability, and effort. Reentry to the real world after prison happens to be one of the most difficult parts of the whole process. It is time to make the reentry process a smooth transition back into the world. Throughout this writing assignment I will be discussing present issues as well as proposals for solutions inside the reentry program. The main things that will be discussed are housing after reentry, employment after reentry, substance abuse and recidivism, and other reentry risks that seem necessary to address. When discussing reentry plans it is important to review every angle and go with the best option for everyone especially the offender.
Housing is one of the most difficult parts of the reentry process. Housing individuals is extremely difficult especially when several odds are against you. Not only is it difficult to find affordable housing, but it is difficult to find housing for offenders that fits his/her needs (Krisberg, etc., 2014, p. 158). Some of these needs might include assisting an ex-prisoner with developing independent living skills or helping with mental illnesses that effect day to day life. More than a quarter of ex-prisoners have some sort of mental illness or a chronic medical condition (Krisberg, etc., 2014, p. 159). My proposal for the perfect reentry plan is to develop rehabilitation and reentry centers to help individuals recently released from prison. This is very similar to therapeutic communities. However therapeutic communities are focused more so on the inside of prisons while this proposal is focused on after release. These centers would include a partnership with facilities to ensure housing after release. This would include finding housing that fits the ex-prisoner’s medical needs as well as their geographic limitations. By doing this would also include making sure no waitlist occurs because this can become a frequent problem when an offender gets out. In addition, by doing this would ensure that a place is available for them so they do not have to rely on previous friendships or unsupportive family as this can reignite their chances of returning. Although other states would have to adopt this practice into their own state, other states could recognize the benefits and outcome to see if this is something that the state wants to be a part of. As a reentry specialist, it is important that all employees involved in this process show consideration and are putting effort into each person.
Employment is such a crucial part in an offender’s life once they get released. Employment is a major transitional step back into reality because it gives offenders a sense of stability and responsibility which is important because it is crucial, they are recognized. There are several reasons why employment is difficult for reentry. Some of the reasons why employment is such an obstacle is because of the lack in education as well as maintaining the job with the lack of transportation. Back to education more than 40% of prisoners do not have a high school diploma or a GED (Krisberg, etc., 2014, p.159). My proposal is to have a steady increase of employment after release would be using the rehabilitation and reentry center, I mentioned above in the housing paragraph. Furthermore, this proposal will ensure tools to complete some sort of education will be provided as well as a list of employers that will hire them near their future housing. Including an education program to obtain at the least a high school diploma or GED would increase ex-prisoners with the likelihood of obtaining a job, making it one less obstacle they must go through. Most prisoners do not have a lot of money when released therefore most of them do not have cars, which leads to lack in transportation. In addition, by providing only a list of employers near their future housing will solve transportation drastically because not only will they be able to walk if they had to but there is potential for public transportation. By doing this would ensure a small community for the ex-prisoner rather than being spaced out all over the place, which is easier to transition into.
Substance abuse and recidivism go hand and hand and should be taken seriously. According to Health and Justice from Miller et al’s research “These factors are relevant to program efficacy because even when women were engaged in the program and held positive views about rehabilitation, women experienced significant self-doubt about their capacity to stay sober during the post- release period (p132)” (2016). This is showing the programs should work as well as how they are connected. A true problem behind substance abuse is an offender is chancing going back to prison which in return increases recidivism rates. By having substance abuse disorders or even mental illnesses can affect criminalization for ex-prisoners. Individuals on parole that have some sort of mental illness have double the chance to return to prison within 12 months (Krisberg, etc., 2014, p.160). My proposal to help substance abuse decrease as well as recidivism rates decrease is by using the rehabilitation and reentry centers which would include substance counseling. Incorporating this would prevent criminalization from regularly occurring because ex-prisoners are getting the help and treatment they need rather than acting out which results in either recidivism or return. Using programs designed to help can only benefit offenders that deserve a second chance at life.
One of the main ideas of the corrections system is to rehabilitate offenders and help them contribute to society. The question is, how can you be sure an offender is ready to reintegrate with society? Every offender has different risk factors. Risk factors are characteristics of an offender that can be discovered by research. In the research it has been found that risk factors are connected to criminal behavior and reoffending (Krisberg, etc., 2014, p.44). Taking into account these risk factors and deciding how likely the offender is to repeat offend is called risk and needs assessment. During the sentencing process, a risk and needs assessment will be done on the offender to identify problem areas and to ensure the correct amount of care is being provided. Using the actuarial tools, the criminal justice system will be able to predict the likelihood of an offender committing a crime. Unfortunately, one size does not fit all, and some require more care than others. If the proper care isn’t being administered than the chances of recidivism increase. Using the actuarial tools, the CJS will be able to predict the likelihood of an offender committing a crime. If through the risk and needs assessment it is found that the offender is high risk, then that offender should be placed in a more intense rehabilitative program. This is according to the risk principle which states that recidivism is reduced the most when high risk parolees are met with a high level of monitoring. This includes more hours of rehabilitation and programs that are more involved (Krisberg, etc., 2014,p.171). There are several different kinds of rehabilitative programs, each program is tailored to different needs. The needs principle states that the highest reduction of recidivism can be achieved when the criminogenic needs and non-criminogenic needs are a focus of the program (Krisberg, etc., 2014, p.171). Criminogenic needs are changeable characteristics and circumstances that are discovered in research. These findings are connected to criminal behavior, especially that put an offender at risk to reoffend (Krisberg, etc., 2014, p.44). Non-criminogenic needs are characteristics like low self-esteem and depression that do not correlate to criminal behavior (Krisberg, etc., 2014, p.45). The offender should be placed in said program and have their progress monitored. When enough hours have been logged in the program than another risk and needs assessment will be done to determine whether any progress has been made. When the data from the risk assessment is reviewed the decision can be made of what the risk level for the offender is. When used properly, actuarial tools can be a big help in the corrections system. It reduces the level of recidivism which helps offenders in the reentry process.
Overall, incorporating housing, employment, substance abuse, recidivism, and risk factors into community services is the best way to succeed in reentry. Making effort on both sides such as the people running the centers as well as the inmates that are being released is key to thriving. These issues do not stand alone so I grouped them together with services that would tackle all the issues at hand with solutions. My goal was to ensure a smooth and less difficult transition back into the world for inmates being released, which I hope is easily recognized by the reader. Making second chances happen should be a number one priority for the reentry process. Everyone deserves a second chance.
Krisberg, B., Marchionna, S. and Hartney, C., 2014. American Corrections Concepts and Controversies. 1st ed. SAGE.
Sacha Kendall, Sarah Redshaw, Stephen Ward, Sarah Wayland, & Elizabeth Sullivan. (2018). Systematic review of qualitative evaluations of reentry programs addressing problematic drug use and mental health disorders amongst people transitioning from prison to communities. Health & Justice, 6(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40352-018-0063-8