0 Comments | Jun 01, 2010

Stopping the Cycle

Each year, more than 650,000 former inmates from state and federal institutions return to communities throughout the U.S. Many of these men and women are returning to resource-poor neighborhoods, and the only positive place available they have to turn is to a local and trusted church. As more and more prisoners are released into America’s communities, it is increasingly vital to connect them with sustainable employment and caring mentors to keep them from relapsing into a life of criminal activity. Oftentimes, faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs) are uniquely well positioned to provide quality transitional services to men and women returning from prison. Local churches and community organizations reentry programs can provide ex-prisoners with the compassion and services they need to thrive in the communities they are returning to. Placing ex-prisoners in steady employment that matches their abilities and needs is an important effort that helps ensure the safety of America’s streets and the successful integration of ex-prisoners into America’s communities. Recidivism is a vicious cycle of crime, prison, more crime, re-imprisonment, and so on. Statistics show that more than two-thirds of released prisoners will be charged with new crimes within three years following their release, and over half will be reincarcerated . According to criminal justice experts, an attachment to the labor force through stable employment, in concert with family and community connections, is a key element in helping ex-prisoners break this cycle. Oftentimes, former inmates face numerous barriers to successful employment, including: (1) employers often are hesitant to hire ex-prisoners for various reasons; (2) ex-prisoners often lack skills to properly market themselves to potential employers; and (3) ex-prisoners frequently lack the needed social supports that allow them to enter and remain in the workplace. These and other obstacles to reentry, such as substance abuse and housing, create a demand for structured reentry programs. Often times, employers in need of qualified workers are more likely to hire ex-prisoners who are supervised by a reentry program than those who are not. A well-structured and highly-regarded program can make a big difference in the lives of ex-prisoners in our community.