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Reentry Resources

Health Care and Coverage Employment Housing Education Children of Incarcerated Parents General Resources Data and Statistics

Reentry is the transition from incarceration – life in prison, jail, or juvenile justice facilities – to life in the community. Each year roughly 600,000 individuals return to our neighborhoods after serving time in federal or state prisons and 11.4 million people cycle through local jails. Nearly everyone who goes to jail and approximately 95 percent of persons in state or federal prison will eventually return home.  Although returning to the community may be inevitable, successful reentry and reintegration are not. Recidivism studies reveal that two out of every three people released from state prison are rearrested for a new offense and about half return to prison within three years. When reentry fails, the social and economic costs are significant – higher crime, more victims, increased family distress, and greater strain on state and municipal budgets.

The effects of incarceration are felt far beyond prison walls and impact health. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented in the correctional system. In addition to pressing needs such as housing, employment, and educational opportunities, justice-involved individuals have disproportionately high rates of chronic health conditions, and mental health issues and substance use disorders are common. Poorer access to health coverage and health care pose significant challenges for this population, can contribute to a worsening of their health status, and are associated with higher rates of recidivism. The health sector, therefore, has an important role to play in supporting formerly incarcerated individuals to address their health needs. Access to health care and improved health status may also lead to improved opportunities for employment, housing, and family support. All Americans, including those who are formerly incarcerated and have paid their debt to society, should have the opportunity to reach their full potential for health.

The purpose of this webpage is to provide a consolidated location for available reentry resources for returning citizens and their families, HHS grantees, and other individuals/organizations working to help people leaving the criminal justice system.

Health Care and Coverage

Background: 

  • Approximately half of individuals in prison or jail report having had a chronic condition and almost 20 percent report having had an infectious disease.
  • More than half of individuals in prison or jail report having a mental health condition, and about half (53 percent of all state prisoners and 45 percent of all federal prisoners) meet the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for drug dependence.  These rates are significantly higher than the general population.
  • After release, there is often even less care in the community. Yet the research is clear: continuity of care is essential if we want to see health and safety benefits.
  • Whether it be for substance use disorders, mental illness, infectious or chronic conditions, continuity of care must be a priority, particularly in the first days and weeks after release when the risk of relapse, reoffending, and even death, is most acute. Overdose from opioids, for example, was the leading cause of death for former prisoners, with highest risk present in the first week of release.

Resources:

  • Correctional Health
    • CDC Correctional Health. This webpage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links to corrections and public health departments, guidance on the prevention, care, and treatment of infectious disease found in correctional settings, scientific reports on health in corrections, and other health education materials.    

Employment

Background:

  • More than 70 million people – roughly one in three Americans of working age – has a criminal record, mostly for relatively minor non-violent offenses, and sometimes from decades in the past.
  • Job applicants with a criminal record are 50% less likely than their peers without a record to receive an interview or a job offer, even with identical resumes and qualifications. Additionally, the American Bar Association has chronicled over 26,000 state occupational licensing restrictions for people with criminal records, including over 6,000 restrictions for misdemeanor offenses and nearly 20,000 restrictions that are lifetime or permanent restrictions for a conviction. 
  • While research is clear that stable employment is an important predictor of successful reentry, individuals with criminal records face high obstacles obtaining meaningful employment, even if they have paid their debt to society, are unlikely to reoffend, and are qualified for the job for which they are applying.
  • The impact of having a criminal record is exacerbated among African Americans, who are more likely than whites both to have a criminal record and also to experience racial discrimination in the labor market without a criminal record.

Resources:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records – The Guidance seeks to ensure that criminal background reports obtained by employers about job applicants and employees are not used in a discriminatory way.
  • Myth Busters on Employment –The Federal Interagency Reentry Council has published a number of “MythBusters” to clarify federal laws regarding employment, including on these myths:
    • MYTH: Businesses and employers have no way to protect themselves from potential property and monetary losses should an individual they hire prove to be dishonest.  (Myth Buster HERE)
    • MYTH: People with criminal records are automatically barred from all employment. (Myth Buster HERE)
    • MYTH: The Federal Government’s hiring policies prohibit employment of people with criminal records. (Myth Buster HERE)
    • MYTH: Employers have no federal income tax advantage by hiring an ex-felon. (Myth Buster HERE)
    • MYTH: An employer can get a copy of your criminal history from companies that do background checks without your permission.  (Myth Buster HERE)
  • The Federal Bonding Program – The U.S. Department of Labor established the Federal Bonding Program in 1966 to provide Fidelity Bonds that guarantee honesty for “at-risk,” hard-to-place job seekers. The bonds cover the first six months of employment. There is no cost to the job applicant or the employer.
  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) -- The WOTC is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment. 

Housing

Background:

  • Stable housing is particularly critical for people returning from prison and jail, who face a myriad of challenges while reestablishing themselves in their communities. Yet significant barriers to stable housing for reentering individuals exist.
  • Across the country, over 10 percent of persons released from prisons and jails face homelessness upon reentry – a percentage that could be as high as 50 percent in large, urban areas. The lack of stable housing increases the likelihood of contact with the justice system.
  • Often, the best case scenario for individuals returning from prison or jail is to live – at least temporarily – with family members. However, even in instances where the family wants to open their doors to their returning relative, barriers may persist.
  • For those with family members who live in buildings managed by public housing authorities (PHAs), local PHA policies – or misconceptions about these policies – may prevent them from residing with family members, who fear eviction. Others may not have family members who are willing or able to provide a place to live. Too often, these individuals become homeless.

Resources:

  • Myth Busters on Public Housing– MYTH: Individuals who have been convicted of a crime are “banned” from public housing.
  • Fair Housing Guidance – Guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)explains when barriers to housing for those with criminal records may violate the anti-discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act.
  • It Starts With Housing – This HUD report highlights innovative practices from Public Housing Authorities that are helping provide people with second chances.

Education

Background:

  • In a federal study of people released from state prisons, 94 percent of incarcerated adults identified education as a key reentry need.
  • Roughly 37 percent of people in state prisons do not have a high school diploma or GED, and 86 percent lack postsecondary education.
  • Education is a core resource for release preparation, and is an evidence-based tool for reducing recidivism among adults and juveniles. The RAND Corporation’s meta-analysis of research on correctional education found that, on average, incarcerated people who participated in correctional education programs were 43 percent less likely to recidivate than their counterparts who did not.

    A one dollar investment in prison education translates into four to five dollars of savings in corrections costs during the first three years after release.
  • Education is also a critical issue for youth in custody, including youth with disabilities. Of those who were tested, nearly one-third of the individuals in juvenile-justice facilities were diagnosed with learning disabilities, though fewer than 25 percent received special education services and supports to address their needs.

Resources:

  • Beyond the Box Resource Guide – This U.S. Department of Education (ED) guide provides information for colleges and universities to help remove barriers that can prevent the estimated 70 million citizens with criminal records from pursuing higher education.
  • Reentry and Corrections Education – The Federal Trade Commission’s webpage for justice-involved individuals and staff working with this community provides resources on financial literacy, scams, identity theft, and background checks.
  • Guiding Principles for Providing High-Quality Education in Juvenile Justice Secure Care Settings – This guide from the ED and the U.S. Department of Justice identifies promising practices for improving education programs in juvenile justice facilities, as well as areas in which federal legal obligations apply.

Children of Incarcerated Parents

Background:

  • On any given day, as many as 2.7 million children – or one in 28 – have a parent in prison or jail. For African-American children, the rate is one in nine.
  • More than five million children, or seven percent of all children in the U.S., has had a parent who lived with them go to jail or prison.
  • Children of incarcerated parents may face increased risk of homelessness, financial instability, problems at school, and behavioral and mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.
  • Despite the strength and resilience of many children, the shame and stigma associated with incarceration may cause children to feel isolated and may prevent parents from discussing their circumstances with others, causing many justice-involved families to go unidentified and unsupported.

Resources:

Financial Resources

Background:

  • Reentering individuals can face financial insecurity. One study that surveyed individuals going through the reentry process found that 62% of respondents reported having legal/financial debt related to the criminal justice system.
  • This debt can result from unpaid fines, court fees, treatment fees, law enforcement fees, restitution, and child support. 
  • Because of this accumulation of debt, reentering individuals can face challenges establishing credit, opening bank accounts, and saving money.

Resources:

  • Your Money, Your Goals: Focus on Reentry – This guide provides information and tools specific to the financial challenges encountered by justice-involved individuals, including tools to help people prioritize and manage their debt, know their rights about background reports, and access and fix their credit reports.

General Resources

  • National Reentry Resource Center – The National Reentry Resource Center provides education, training, and technical assistance to states, tribes, territories, local governments, service providers, non-profit organizations, and corrections institutions working on prisoner reentry.
  • Roadmap to Reentry – Principles of reform supporting the U.S. Department of Justice’s efforts to ensure that all justice-involved individuals are able to fulfill their potential when they come home, and to support and strengthen reentry programs and resources at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).  These principles of reform will be implemented throughout BOP, deepening and further institutionalizing the Department’s commitment to reentry. 
  • The Federal Interagency Reentry Council: A Record of Progress and a Roadmap for the Future – This report from the Federal Interagency Reentry Council highlights progress to date and maps the road forward.
  • Economic Perspectives on Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System – This Council of Economic Advisors report using economic analysis is a lens for understanding the costs, benefits, and consequences of incarceration and other criminal justice policies.

Data and Statistics

Last Modified: 4/26/2017 1:21:00 PM