The Reintegration Foundation recognizes the difficulty many former inmates face as they work to build better lives for themselves and their families after spending time in correctional facilities. In theory, these facilities focus on rehabilitation, preparing inmates to return to mainstream society as productive citizens. In practice, these facilities take many of the freedoms we take for granted on the outside and offer few opportunities for real rehabilitation. Every moment of the day is regulated, down to mealtimes and bathroom visits. The absence of privacy or a true sense of agency demoralizes inmates in ways that are difficult to overcome upon release.
Still, many inmates make the best of a bad situation. They engage in therapy. They take classes, learn skills and trades, master musical instruments, build their physical fitness, all in the hope of building a better life for themselves upon release.
Recipe for Recidivism
Sadly, former inmates often see their hopes dashed when they reach the outside. Despite their efforts to change themselves for the better, people who have a felony in their past soon discover employers willing to hire them are vanishingly rare. Even those few inmates who do find a job are often not hired full time or paid a living wage. The skills and trades they learned in prison are not given credence as legitimate training or experience, or their creative efforts do not translate to work opportunities. The stigma of their criminal records and the financial hardships that accompany that stigma can be insurmountable obstacles.
As of late 2018, the unemployment rate amongst felons is a mind-blowing 27%, even as the economy surges and unemployment rates in the general population hold steady at 3.9%. This discrepancy speaks volumes about the difficulty a criminal record presents for former inmates attempting to re-enter the workforce upon release. Denied a chance to become productive members of society, many former inmates resort to the old routines that landed them in prison in the first place. A vicious cycle of release, re-offense, and re-incarceration emerges as these former inmates lose hope that their lives can change for the better.
The Reintegration Foundation hopes to break that cycle by providing resources and other opportunities not commonly available to felons. Even though the stated goal of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate and reintegrate inmates, the only way that this goal may be achieved is if society’s resources aren’t aimed solely at human warehousing. We will provide the resources our justice system does not, through fundraising, job training, public outreach, and networking.
We believe that no one’s life should be defined solely by their mistakes. If an individual is serious about what they want to offer the world, that person deserves a real chance to change and rebuild his or her life. We understand that people must be accountable for their actions, but once inmates have paid their debts to society, they need not face continued punishment upon release from prison. No platform currently exists to offer substantial assistance to those recently released from prison. The Reintegration Foundation will step in to provide the assistance necessary to help these former inmates overcome financial and social barriers to help them build stable and productive lives.