Prisoner reentry

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Prisoner reentry is the process by which prisoners who have been released return to the community.[1] Many types of programs have been implemented with the goal of reducing recidivism and have been found to be effective for this purpose.[2][3] Consideration for the conditions of the communities formerly incarcerated individuals are re-entering, which are often disadvantaged, is a fundamental part of successful re-entry.[4]

A 2006 study done by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation[5] statistically evaluated the effectiveness of prisoner reentry programs on the criteria scale of working, not working, promising, and unknown. Findings classify employment-oriented programs as working, drug rehabilitation programs as working, educational programs as promising, and halfway house programs as working.[6]

A 2015 article from The New York Times Magazine commented, "It wasn't until the mid-2000s that this looming 'prisoner re-entry crisis' became a fixation of sociologists and policy makers, generating a torrent of research, government programs, task forces, nonprofit initiatives and conferences now known as the 're-entry movement'."[7]

Resources for prisoner re-entry programs[edit]

In the past few decades, correctional institutions have seen a shift, with prisoners serving indeterminate sentences and release being assessed by parole boards, to offenders being released from prison after serving determinate sentences.[2] However, those released are not receiving sufficient preparation for returning to their communities due to limited in-prison and post-release reentry programs; this inadequate structure for re-entry directly influences the possibility of recidivism, also referred to as the "revolving door".[8] United States spending for corrections is approximately $80 billion a year, with re-entry receiving the least amount of fiscal attention relative to other parts of the criminal justice system process.[9][circular reference] From 2001 to 2004, the United States' federal government allocated over $100 million for reentry programs.[1] Without increased resources for this target area proportional to that spent on control-oriented aspects of incarceration, the issue that remains is the expansion of access and participation for inmates. While the area of reentry program development is still growing, assessments demonstrate their efficacy for transitioning ex-offenders back into society and reducing recidivism. The potential for well-resourced reentry program has yet to be realized, but public policy and criminal justice scholars believe this to be a deserving area for funding to be re-allocated and prioritized.[6]

Kinds of re-entry programs[edit]


With approximately 2 million people[9] incarcerated, the prison population constitutes a large portion of the U.S. labor force. An essential argument for putting prisoners to work is in-prison productivity translating to preparation for entering the workforce post-release. Prison labor is cost-effective for tax payers, allows prisoners to contribute to their families from inside through the generation of income, and can be a form of restorative justice[10][circular reference] for victims. Poor resources and a prison infrastructure unfit for large-scale labor serve as barriers for establishing effective employment re-entry programs in-prison and post-release, which would include making livable wages, vocational training, education, and skill development accessible to the U.S. prison population.[4] Current funding levels only have the capacity to provide a small percentage of prisoners the opportunity to engage in "commercially rewarding work."[4]

The "Returning Home Study" conducted by the Urban Institute from 2001 to 2006 found that ex-prisoners who worked before imprisonment, and those who find employment soon after release, are less likely to be re-incarcerated within a year of release. The same study found that releasing prisoners to parole supervision both reduces the likelihood that they will engage in substance use and makes it easier for them to find employment after release.[11]

Programs assisting ex-offenders to find employment[4][edit]


In a study from New Zealand, the ability to secure stable housing was found to reduce the likeliness of recidivism by 20 percent.[12] Housing providers struggle to make housing available to ex-offenders because of safety concerns and failure to accommodate to the specific needs of formerly individuals without guaranteed income or access to social welfare support.[12] In New York City, "more than 54 percent of people released from prison moved straight into the city's shelter system in 2017."[13]

Across the country, initiatives are being made to assist ex-offenders find housing.[13]

  • In Alameda County, California, homeowners are partnering with formerly incarcerated individuals and allowing them to rent. At Impact Justice, ex-offenders are paired with homeowners for housing and guidance for reintegration.
  • In Delaware, a commission was created to increase access and support for Delaware state inmates to secure housing and employment.
  • In Washington state, the Tacoma Housing Authority is offering housing assistance for ex-offender, at-risk college students.
  • In Seattle and Washington D.C., landlords are no longer allowed to screen for felony convictions on rental applications.


Other reentry programs focus on improving health among ex-prisoners, which tends to be significantly worse than that of people who have never been imprisoned.

Re-entry for women prisoners[edit]

Women prisoners and formerly incarcerated women are advocating for the need for gender-specific re-entry programs in-prison and post-release, specifically focused on healthcare, substance abuse, mental illness, and family reunification.[14]

For women prisoners concerned about family reunification post-release, comes with challenges of securing housing and employment, necessary for meeting child welfare requirements. In cases where these requirements cannot be met, women ex-offenders claim to benefit from rehabilitative counseling to deal with the strain incarceration has on the relationship between mothers and children.[15]

Juvenile Re-entry[edit]

Juveniles in the justice system often require different treatment and consideration than their adult counterparts. While there is constantly ongoing debate about the ways in which juvenile punishment should be given (whether it should be the same level of severity or differ in approach), often in the form of policy and moral debate, one of the most common methods of responding to juvenile offense is placing juveniles in re-entry programs.

Juvenile Reentry is a culmination of services, often presented in the form of programs, that help to reintegrate displaced juveniles back into the community. These programs are often designed to discourage juvenile delinquency and prevent such crimes from happening again.[16]

Juvenile Re-entry programs involve many stages with each stage playing its own role in helping the juvenile to reform. There is the entry phase, placement phase, transitional phase, and community-based aftercare phase. Each of these stages involves varying degrees of supervision over the juvenile while the delinquent is given safer surroundings and taught valuable lessons and ways of life that ultimately will help them to be a more valuable and safe addition to the community. [17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Travis, Jeremy; et al. (1 June 2001). "From Prison to Home: The Dimensions and Consequences of Prisoner Reentry". Urban Institute. CiteSeerX
  2. ^ a b Seiter, Richard P.; Kadela, Karen R. (1 July 2003). "Prisoner Reentry: What Works, What Does Not, and What Is Promising". Crime & Delinquency. 49 (3): 360–388. doi:10.1177/0011128703049003002.
  3. ^ Petersilia, Joan (2004). "What Works in Prisoner Reentry - Reviewing and Questioning the Evidence". Federal Probation Journal. 68 (2).
  4. ^ a b c d Travis, Jeremy (October 1999). "Prisons, Work, and Re-Entry". Corrections Today. 61: 102–105, 133.
  5. ^ "MDRC | Building knowledge to improve social policy". 2018.
  6. ^ a b Seiter, Richard (January 2004). "Inmate Re-Entry: What Works and What to Do About It". American Correctional Association. 29: 1–5, 33–35.
  7. ^ Mooallem, Jon (2015-07-16). "You Just Got Out of Prison. Now What?". The New York Times Magazine. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-28.
  8. ^ Shawgo, Ron (March 2008). "The Revolving Door of Re-Entry". Corrections Forum. 17: 74–80.
  9. ^ a b "Incarceration in the United States".
  10. ^ "Restorative justice".
  11. ^ "Returning Home Study: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry". Urban Institute. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  12. ^ a b Mills, Alice (2013). "Housing ex-prisoners: the role of the third sector". Safer Communities. 12: 38–49. doi:10.1108/17578041311293134.
  13. ^ a b Pew Research Center (April 23, 2019). "Where 'Returning Citizens' Find Housing After Prison". Pew Trusts.
  14. ^ Diggs, Michelle M. (January 2014). "ESTABLISHING SELF-SUFFICIENCY—REENTRY AND INCARCERATED WOMEN: A GRANT PROPOSAL PROJECT". UMI Dissertation Publishing: iii-44 – via ProQuest.
  16. ^ "Practice: Juvenile Reentry Programs -". Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  17. ^ "Reentry |". Retrieved 2020-04-15.

Further reading[edit]

  • Petersilia, J. (1 September 2001). "Prisoner Reentry: Public Safety and Reintegration Challenges". The Prison Journal. 81 (3): 360–375. doi:10.1177/0032885501081003004.