Re-entering individuals also face challenges in accessing public assistance. For instance, many states prohibit people formerly convicted for drug felony from accessing federal-funded public assistance and food stamps. The 1996 Federal Welfare Law bans people with a drug-related felony conviction from receiving cash assistance or federally-funded food stamps. Returning individuals are not eligible even after completing their sentence, earning a rehabilitation certificate, or overcoming their addiction. Welfare assistance is a crucial transitional resource for individuals facing economic challenges after release from prison. Denying public assistance to re-entering individuals makes it harder for them to support themselves once they leave the criminal justice system and re-enter the community. This increases their chances of returning to drug use and criminal activity.
Unsuccessful reentry into society and reincarceration negatively impacts individuals, families, and communities. Incarceration affects some communities disproportionately. For instance, people with low education, and minority communities primarily black young men, are more likely to get incarcerated. Incarceration strains relationships with families and the wider community. Societies that have high rates of removal and re-entry of offenders, this further creates immense economic and social disadvantages. Studies show that the results of corrections are not cost-effective and fail to justify the costs to individuals, families, and communities.
Strategies to Promote Effective Reintegration into Society
It is necessary to create effective strategies addressing the challenges preventing previously convicted individuals from successful reintegration into their societies. Returning individuals are disadvantaged economically, socially, and educationally, which further contributes to inequality. One way to reduce recidivism and help former convicts successfully re-enter the community is re-entry programming and prison education. Many states provide special education, technical education, career education, adult education, as well as adult post-secondary education. It is essential to focus on pre-release programs in preparing convicts to be productive members of society. Providing convicted individuals with mental health counseling, addiction treatment, education programming, and job and life skills will help overcome some of the barriers they face upon re-entering society. Studies have shown that convicts who join correctional education programs are 43% less likely to be reincarcerated. In addition, approximately $4 on incarceration costs are saved for every $1 spent on prison education.
Various efforts have been developed by policymakers to smoothen re-entry of individuals and reduce barriers. A criminal record is a burden to an individual no matter how minor the offense and creates significant challenges in community reintegration. It is essential to start re-entry preparations on the first day of incarceration. Local governments should facilitate the re-entry process by allocating finances to boost programs that assist in the provision of medication-assisted treatment and re-entry. To secure the continuity of care, it is crucial to prioritize information sharing between communities, physical and behavioral health providers, affordable life free of collection agencies, and the justice system. Services offered to convicted individuals must focus on their individual needs. Successful reentry programs recognize the important relationship that must be developed between physical, relational, and behavioral health.