Two million people are incarcerated in the U.S., and each year around 600,000 people are released from jails and prisons. The vast majority of people released from incarceration return to our communities, where these returning citizens encounter numerous barriers to finding housing, getting a job, even getting a driver’s or other kind of license.
Challenges in Reentry
People who have been incarcerated face more than 44,000 legal sanctions that could create barriers to everything from housing and employment to getting a wide variety of licenses to qualifying for financial aid.1
- Background checks: The vast majority of employers and landlords use background checks in hiring and on prospective tenants. Background checks screen out individuals with criminal records, closing the door on opportunities for returning citizens to rebuild their lives and become part of the social fabric of their communities.
- Unemployment: At least two-thirds of formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed one year after their release. Without jobs, returning citizens can’t support themselves and their families and may be forced to return to illegal activities.
- Cycle of re-incarceration. Despite growing investment in programs, successful reentry remains an elusive goal. Nationally, more than 67% of returning citizens are rearrested within three years.2
Research suggests that successful reentry can be greatly helped by community connection. But in addition to legal barriers, returning citizens face suspicion and stigma that isolate them from the community.3
Our partner: THRIVE Communities
THRIVE Communities is a community-based response to the challenges faced by adults transitioning from incarceration. Each of the Voices of Reentry storytellers has participated in THRIVE’ Circles of Support and Accountability, in which three volunteers from the community, who may or may not have any direct experience of incarceration, support a returning citizen. THRIVE’s Circles of Support and Accountability are designed to empower returning citizens and engage local community members in successful reentry.
Our project: Voices in action
Voices of Reentry consists of consists of three community events and six mini-documentaries featuring THRIVE community members. Events will be hosted by community partners in 2020 and 2021:
UTEC: A community-based organization that works with justice-involved young adults in Lowell and Haverhill. UTEC offers educational programming, employment in three social enterprises, and long-term engagement and support with the goal of igniting and nurturing the ambition of the Commonwealth’s most disconnected young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success.
Framingham: Our co-host organizations in Framingham, the Edwards Church and the Open Spirit Center have a longstanding commitment to social justice and community engagement and are actively seeking ways to grapple with the implications of mass incarceration.
Concord Prison Outreach, our host in Concord, is a nonprofit that works cooperatively with the Massachusetts Department of Correction to offer educational programs that focus on skill-building and personal growth to people while incarcerated or post-incarceration.
The project was scheduled to begin in April 2020 but is delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope to start work sometime this summer. Join our mailing list to stay in touch.Subscribe to our newsletter
Sources:1 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Collateral Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the Effects on Communities.
2 Center for American Progress. News You Can Use: Research Roundup for Re-Entry Advocates.3 Nathan James. Offender Reentry: Correctional Statistics, Reintegration into the Community, and Recidivism. Learn more about mass incarceration and reentry