More than 650,000 people are released from prison each year and face the daunting task of reintegrating themselves back into society. With challenges like finding a job and a place to live – all with the felon stigma attached – it’s no wonder why so many people struggle to get back on their feet. In fact, it’s been found that nearly 76.6 percent of ex-offenders re-offend over a five-year period.
Breaking the Pattern
Thankfully, there is a program offered in prison that can help. It’s called work release and is known by many to be a community transition program in which inmates are housed in community-based facilities and work in the community during normal business hours.
These programs provide inmates with opportunities to enhance their job skills, re-establish ties with family and friends, and build financial savings prior to release. It also functions to help counteract the negative effects of institutionalization, such as low self-esteem, diminished self-worth, and feelings of being ostracized and discriminated against by those in the community.
Trust Me, the Program Works
The great news is that this program works. Recent studies found that inmates released from work release facilities have significantly lower levels of recidivism when compared to those released from a regular state prison facility. Work release inmates are also more likely to find stable employment when returning back to their communities, a huge factor when reducing recidivism.
I know these findings to be true because I went through work release myself. For the last 14 months of my four-year prison sentence, I worked as a waitress by day and returned to the facility each night. This period impacted me tremendously because it allowed me to mentally and socially transition from a person who was institutionalized, to one who was secure and independent again. It also helped me reconnect with my family members and friends, as well as others in the community – all of which ultimately decreased the isolation I felt once I was released.
But perhaps the greatest thing about work release was what it did for me psychologically. It helped me view myself as more than just a prisoner (something that is drilled into your head for years by officials and guards while behind bars) and allowed me to feel like a human being again – a feeling that is crucial for anyone wanting to become a productive member of society post-incarceration.
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