According to the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 40% of former federal prisoners and more than 60% of former state prisoners are rearrested within three years of release.
Reentry programs are among the most important resources for an ex-inmate after they are released. These programs provide job placement, resources, and ultimately attempt to ensure that the ex-prisoner does not return to a life of incarceration.
It is essential that these programs have the necessary resources to educate and assist those trying to beat the cycle of re-arrest that plagues our criminal justice system.
If you are a reentry counselor and are looking for creative ways to help your ex-inmates stay out of prison, you should check out both Life After Life and Beyond The Wall. These documentaries display many of the challenges and competing influences for those that have just been released and illustrate the multiple paths available for their future.
Here are the 7 major challenges faced by ex-prisoners demonstrated in these compelling films:
1). When prisoners get released, they often have very little support.
In many cases inmates are released into a much different world. It is common, especially for inmates serving long sentences to find that family and friends have moved on or died. Robbing them of the support system that is so crucial to becoming re-acclimated with the outside world.
In addition, the vast majority of prisoners released from long-term sentences have little access to programs, resources, or even a place to live.
2). They know nothing but their previous ways.
Unless ex-prisoners are able to change their mindset while imprisoned, they often only know one life, and that is usually the one that put them behind bars.
Many prisoners find it easier to return to those methods after being released. Because of this, an estimated 2 out of every 3 prisoners end up back in jail less than three years after release.
3). It is increasingly difficult to find a job with a criminal background.
Many ex-inmates lack extensive job experience to begin with, and struggle to find reputable employment with prison time and arrests on their records. They often work at restaurants or in physical trades and are only able to earn minimum wages- leading to strained family lives and relationships.
According to a 5 year study done by The National Reentry Resource Center, "less than half of people released from prison had secured a job upon their return to the community."
4). Old ‘friends’ and habits often tempt them.
Sometimes the only people that are still around when prisoners are released are those that they knew from the street. It is easy to be convinced that those people can act as a support system, when the reality of the situation is that they act as increasingly negative influences.
Many prisoners also still suffer from addictive personalities and fall back into old habits when they re-engage with those influences.
"The highest mortality risk for released prisoners during the first two weeks after release is drug overdose, accounting for nearly three-quarters of deaths during that period," according to The Brookings Institution.
5). Sometimes parole is granted incorrectly.
Though it is rare, sometimes there are disagreements and miscommunications about the terms of a prisoner’s parole. This means that someone on parole can be put back into prison for little reason other than politics. This is especially concerning considering how difficult it is to be granted parole in the first place.
As The Washington Post notes, "parole boards often operate behind closed doors. Their decisions are largely unreviewable by courts — or anyone else."
This can also weigh on prisoners’ minds; they are constantly worried about going back to jail, even if they have been improving their lifestyles after already struggling to obtain their 'freedom'.
6). They are plagued by suicidal thoughts and feelings of helplessness.
Many prisoners not only suffer with the guilt of their crimes, but also with a feeling of hopelessness when they return home. The obstacles that immediately amount before them are a heavy burden to endure.
7). They often don’t know where to begin.
Prisoners that were arrested when they were minors but tried as adults often have very little “real life experience.” When they are released years later, they cannot fold an ironing board, operate mass transit, or walk down the street without fear and anxiety.
For many prisoners, especially those who have served long-term prison sentences from a young age, development of life skills has been stunted. Without basic practical skills, a former inmate can find themselves crippled in the modern world.
According to the ACLU, "on any given day, nearly 60,000 youth under age 18 are incarcerated in juvenile jails and prisons in the United States. In every state, confining young people – cutting them off from their families, disrupting their educations, and often exposing them to further trauma and violence – harms their development and has lifelong negative consequences."
Would you like to introduce your ex-inmates to strategies for dealing with these 7 challenges as a part of your reentry program? It is crucial for ex-inmates to know what to look out for and to see other ex-prisoners with the same concerns navigating their new lives.
Both Life After Life and Beyond the Wall are dynamic films that display the complex realities for many victims of the criminal justice system.
For more information on these vital post-incarceration films, please give us a call at (732) 321-0711 or visit:
Life After Life
Beyond The Wall
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