Freedom 101: Dealing with Confinement

United States Department of Justice finds: 

  • In 2006, over 2,258,000 people were incarcerated in federal, state, or local prisons or jails. An additional 4,900,000 were on probation and parole. 
  • By the start of 2008, more than 1 in 100 Americans were incarcerated. 
  • Nearly 650,000 people are released from Federal and State incarceration into communities nationwide each year. 
  • Nearly 2 out of 3 released prisoners are expected to be rearrested for a felony or
  • serious misdemeanor within 3 years after release. 
  • Money spent on corrections alone increased from $9,000,000,000 in 1982 to $59,600,000,000 in 2002. These figures do not include the cost of arrest and prosecution, nor do they take into account the cost to victims. 
  • Between 1991 and 1999, the number of children with a parent in a federal or state correctional facility grew from approximately 930,000 to approximately 1,500,000. 

The Problem 

How do we help inmates create changes in their behavior that are sustainable upon release, that promote a positive lifestyle, and decrease the likelihood of return to addiction or prison? 

Four times more prisoners are coming home to our communities than just two decades ago. The above statistics highlight the fact that the majority of jails in this country lack adequate programs to prepare their prisoners to return to a productive life. Often, released prisoners feel more separate, angry and fearful than the day they were arrested.  Environmental and individual risk factors tend to increase the probability that an individual will re-offend and re-engage in certain problem behaviors such as violence and substance abuse. These risk factors typically include a return to homes where physical or sexual abuse, as well as drug and alcohol use are prevalent. 

Without tools for changing their lives, it is unrealistic to expect that after incarceration released prisoners will behave any differently than they did when first imprisoned. Often an inmate has poor self-esteem prior to incarceration and is generally not well-connected to productive citizens. The prison sentence only intensifies the alienation that he or she previously felt. 

We, as society, have a choice. Do we take the opportunity while their lives are “on pause” to provide them with tools to change?  Or do we continue to allow them to be mostly “housed”, networking with other offenders, and learn nothing new—other than new criminal techniques? 

The Question 

How do we want the prisoners to return to local communities—do we want them released in a damaged, disengaged manner OR released with the ability to move on to a different lifestyle with values and skills that support good socialization and a meaningful life?

Learn about Freedom 101 available programs

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