(Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
We’ve all heard that it “takes a village” to raise a child. It turns out that it takes a village – more accurately, a “community” – to help citizens make a successful life after incarceration. We can all use the means we have – whether as employers, volunteers, or active citizens – to support positive re-entry.
The payoff: healthier, happier, safer families and communities; a stronger economy; and more public funding diverted from incarceration to needed projects.
Areas where community help is needed:
Employment: Hiring for a new position can be a daunting task. Applicants need to meet a variety of needs the employer has and hopefully during their tenure will exceed expectations. Widening the applicant pool by including returning citizens will help alleviate some of the pressures associated with the hiring process. Employers who find a qualified candidate with a criminal history could qualify for a tax credit and may receive additional benefits from other government programs. Including returning citizens in an applicant pool can prove beneficial to employers and help with financial growth.
Meeting people where they are (Go to jail): The majority of local re-entry programs heavily rely on community partnerships to operate. Often the success of the program depends on the relationship between the community partner and the corrections institute. If there is a significant correlation between your client populations and returning citizens, consider approaching your local corrections institute to establish a relationship and potentially meet your future clients while they are currently incarcerated.
Mental health and substance abuse help: Mental health problems and substance abuse problems – often co-occuring – are more common in the jail population than in the same non-jail cohort. These issues may not have been treated before incarceration, and may present even more of a challenge afterwards – mortality rates for returning citizens are very high, especially in the two weeks following release, and almost half of those deaths are caused by overdose. Counseling and support resources are vital.
Family or community support: Not every returning citizen has supportive family or friends waiting, yet those connections can be vital to successful re-entry. Veteran’s associations, church and community groups, support groups, all pay a big part in an individuals successful return.