Guest Commentary: Supporting and Helping Those in Reentry Post-Incarceration – An Evidence-Based Approach

by Rodney Wrice

The transition from incarceration back into society, known as reentry, is a critical period that significantly influences the future prospects of formerly incarcerated individuals. Effective support during this phase not only aids these individuals in rebuilding their lives but also benefits society by reducing recidivism rates and enhancing public safety. Evidence-based practices play a crucial role in shaping reentry programs that are effective and sustainable like Changing Lives Forever, LLC, WeFit Inc. and All N. This article explores the importance of supporting reentry efforts post-incarceration, highlighting the evidence-based strategies that underpin successful reintegration.

The Challenge of Reentry

Reentry is fraught with numerous challenges, including finding employment, securing housing, reestablishing family connections, and accessing healthcare. Formerly incarcerated individuals often face stigma and discrimination, which can hinder their ability to reintegrate successfully. These barriers can lead to a cycle of recidivism, where individuals return to criminal behavior and subsequently, incarceration.

Reducing Recidivism through Evidence-Based Practices

Research consistently shows that comprehensive reentry programs can significantly reduce recidivism rates. A meta-analysis conducted by the National Institute of Justice found that participants in well-structured reentry programs were 43% less likely to reoffend compared to those who did not receive such support. Key components of these successful programs include:

Employment Assistance: Employment is a critical factor in reducing recidivism. Programs that provide job training, placement services, and support have proven to be effective. For example, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) has demonstrated success by offering immediate, paid transitional work and support services. Studies have shown that CEO participants had a 22% lower recidivism rate compared to a control group.

Housing Support: Stable housing is another cornerstone of successful reentry. The Housing First model, which prioritizes providing permanent housing to those without preconditions, has been shown to reduce recidivism. The Corporation for Supportive Housing reported that formerly incarcerated individuals who received housing support through this model were significantly less likely to reoffend.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment: Many incarcerated individuals struggle with mental health issues and substance abuse. Programs that offer integrated treatment for these conditions have higher success rates. The Transition from Jail to Community (TJC) initiative found that providing comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment reduces recidivism and improves overall outcomes for reentrants.

The Role of Community and Family Support

Community and family play a vital role in the reentry process. Positive social support systems can provide the emotional and practical assistance needed for successful reintegration. Evidence suggests that family-based reentry programs, which involve family members in the rehabilitation process, can improve outcomes. The Safer Foundation’s Family Reunification Program, which facilitates family engagement through counseling and support services, has been shown to increase the likelihood of successful reentry.

Policy Implications and Future Directions

To maximize the effectiveness of reentry programs, policies should be informed by evidence-based practices and lived experience. This involves investing in programs with proven track records and ensuring that they are adequately funded and accessible to all formerly incarcerated individuals. Additionally, policies should address systemic barriers, such as employment discrimination and housing restrictions, which disproportionately affect reentrants.

One promising policy initiative is the Second Chance Act, which provides federal grants to support reentry programs that have demonstrated success in reducing recidivism. Evaluations of Second Chance Act-funded programs have shown positive outcomes, including increased employment rates and reduced reoffense rates among participants.

Conclusion

Supporting and helping those in reentry post-incarceration is not only a moral imperative but also a practical necessity for enhancing public safety and reducing the social and economic costs associated with recidivism. Evidence-based reentry programs operated by those with lived experience that address employment, housing, mental health, and family support have proven to be effective in facilitating successful reintegration. By investing in these programs and enacting supportive policies and practices, society can help formerly incarcerated individuals rebuild their lives and contribute positively to their communities. The path to successful reentry is challenging, but with the right support and evidence-based strategies, it is a journey that can lead to lasting positive outcomes for individuals and society as a whole.

This article was written in memory of Russell McCloud.

Rodney Wrice served 33 years of a 40 to life prison sentence and was released in 2020. He is now the author of 4 books, a impactful keynote speaker, has appeared on countless podcast, the creator on the popular online magazine Changing Lives Forever Voices often ignored and co-founder of Changing Lives Forever, LLC who are first responders to ending homelessness in San Francisco and addressing the needs faced with reentry post-incarceration. For additional inquiries contact Changing Lives Forever, LLC at P.O. Box 640307 SF, CA., 94164.

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