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.
Voices of Reentry includes a 40 minutes documentary film, storytelling workshops in partnership with The Moth Community Program, and public conversations with formerly incarcerated people about how communities can support successful reentry.
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.