Of the approximately 2.3 million men and women who are currently behind bars in the United States, almost all of them — upwards of 95 percent — will eventually leave incarceration and return home to their communities. This means that approximately 650,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons annually. Additionally, 11 million people cycle through local jails. Unfortunately, deficiencies in prison programs and re-entry processes, compounded with societal and economic barriers for the formerly incarcerated, lead to high recidivism rates. Studies show that more than two-thirds are arrested again within three years of release; 75 percent within five years.
Compounding the problem, the incidence of serious mental illnesses are two-to-four-times higher among prisoners than in the general population. Furthermore, three-quarters of those returning from prison have a history of substance abuse. Despite all that, many offenders leave prison or jail with just a few dollars, a few days of medication and a bus ticket. That’s no small factor in the aforementioned high recidivism rates. So, too, is the fact that ex-offenders have a hard time finding and maintaining gainful employment post-release. Studies have shown that finding a job is critical for successful re-entry and preventing future interactions with the justice system.
For all of these reasons and more, reforms to re-entry practices are crucial for ensuring that juvenile and adult offenders who leave prison, jail or a detention facility can return to their communities and families successfully. Public safety depends on it.