Reentry programs Create a Stronger Economy
At any given time, America’s prisons hold over 2.1 million individuals, and nearly all of them will reenter society at some point. This reentry rate amounts to 10 million individuals returning home into communities from prisons across the country each year. These individuals return to circumstances that are less than conducive to positive decisions and opportunities. Ensuring that they become contributing members of society is of tantamount importance to the success of the country’s justice system in achieving its goal of improved public safety. Fortunately, reentry employment is proven beneficial to the economy and local communities.
Here, Denise Hamet, a leader in the area of community development with 25 years of experience in both the public and private sectors, discusses the subject and benefits of reentry employment.
The term reentry refers to the process of releasing incarcerated individuals from jails and prisons into their communities. Reentry may take different forms depending on the judicial sentence, local community resources, and the individual’s willingness to take an active part in his or her success.
Keys to Successful Reentry:
According to research, the most successful reentry programs begin on day one of incarceration. Creating successful reentry takes many partners and requires ongoing funding support. The Second Chance Act, originally authored by Senators Portman and Jones, provides this type of funding and was used to create the Hamilton County Office of Reentry in 2010. This entity partners with 26 different organizations, including a local company named Nehemiah Manufacturing, to use evidence-based practices to reduce recidivism such as pre-release planning, training and employment, as well as partnerships to increase housing for returning citizens. A recent partnership program with Cincinnati State and Nehemiah just graduated its first class. A group of women inmates went through a nine-week pilot program in supply chain logistics, taught by Cincinnati State. The women were guaranteed a job at Nehemiah upon graduation.
Employment – A Critical Part of Successful Reentry:
Once individuals have reentered their community, one of the most significant factors that will decide if they will become contributing members of society is employment. Employment can help someone right out of jail find a place to live and pick up the skills and education necessary to thrive in society. In Hamilton County alone, 2500 people return to society from prison each year. If they experience recidivism and return to jail, it will cost taxpayers on average about $26,500 per year (https://www.vera.org/publications/price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends/price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends/price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends-prison-spending).
Second chances are a part of Nehemiah Manufacturing’s mission. The company, founded in 2009, has developed a successful prototype for employing returning citizens, and as a result, has found higher productivity and lower turnover. The company has grown to 170 employees with annual turnover of 15%, which is less than half of the industry average for non-durable goods (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.t16.htm). The company notes that they have found some of the hardest working and most dedicated employees through their second chance hiring practices. They now have grown their program by creating a business alliance called Beacon of Hope that shares best practices for engaging the second chance population with other businesses. The mission over time is to expose 2,500 new jobs each year to the second chance population by creating awareness, providing a proven process, and by providing easy access to an ecosystem of social support (https://www.beaconofhopeba.org/about/). The alliance has grown to 76 companies who all participate to some degree with hiring second chance employees.
Creating successful reentry programs is not only possible, it is good for business, good for taxpayers, and essential for returning citizens. America presently sees 4 out of 5 individuals return from prison after being released. For our justice system to deliver public safety, it is essential that these individuals can become contributing members of society. Research shows that reentry employment programs that offer support that is positive and non-punitive before, during, and after the time of release are critical to success. Also, “those that offer individualized treatment, therapy, and build on partnerships and collaborations have the highest chances of success,” shared Denise Hamet.