Comparing our clients with the average American, former prisoners tend to be less educated, less likely to be gainfully employed, and more likely to have a history of mental illness or substance abuse, which are increased risk factors for recidivism. According to the CASAColumbia Report (2010), drugs and alcohol play a large role in criminal offenses. Based upon a national review of offense type, 78% of inmates incarcerated for violent crimes were involved with alcohol or drugs, as were 83% of those incarcerated for property crimes and 77% of those incarcerated for public order, immigration or weapon offenses. If we do not help clients achieve sobriety, all is lost.
“For people transitioning from incarceration back to their communities, substance abuse is often closely related to their difficulties with housing, employment, and mental health.” Without sobriety, our clients will never be a responsible parent, a productive employee, or a timely tenant. Sobriety is critical, it is essential, it is fundamental. Second, housing is a necessity.
“Securing housing is one of the most immediate challenges individuals leaving prison face upon their release. Obtaining housing is complicated by a host of factors, including the scarcity of affordable and available housing, legal barriers and regulations, landlords’ prejudices against formerly incarcerated individuals, and strict eligibility requirements for federally subsidized housing.”
For decades, when someone left prison, they were merely given a bus pass. Typically, persons returning home struggle to locate a shelter and their next meal.
If people do not have secure, structured sober housing, their days are spent wondering where they will sleep at night. Thanks to our partnership with the New Jersey Department of Human Services and county welfare offices, we are providing safe, secure, and sober transitional housing. As clients maintain sobriety in their lives and living arrangements, the next major challenge is securing employment.
Former prisoners identify employment as the most important factor in successful reintegration after incarceration. Employment provides dignity, self-worth, and purpose. Previous studies have shown that providing opportunities that increase educational and work-related skills can reduce recidivism rates. There is also evidence that reduced employment opportunities are what lead to criminal involvement in the first place.
“Employment, employment, employment; we work diligently every day with supportive employers to develop job opportunities for our clients,” said Jim McGreevey, Chairman, NJRC.
One of the great things that we are doing at the New Jersey Reentry Corporation is placing people on a path to productive livelihood. With the leadership of Governor Christie and the New Jersey Legislature, we are now reaching towns across our state.