Improving Incarceration’s Contribution to Successful Reentry
The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of the global prison population – with a high price in human terms and a fiscal cost exceeding $80 billion per year. Recidivism rates (relapse of criminal behavior) within five years of prison-release exceed 75 percent. Formerly incarcerated individuals find it very challenging to secure employment, housing, and other basic supports to reintegrate back into society successfully. As a result, the economic and social costs to former inmates, their families and communities are significant and long-lasting. Our Reentry Ready project set out to tackle these challenges, with a focus on finding recommendations to the issue of incarceration and reentry in the United States.
Convergence convened a diverse group of individuals, composed of public and private prison officials, correctional officers, experts in mental and physical health, direct service providers, the faith community, education advocates, former elected officials, researchers, criminal justice experts, and right and left-leaning advocacy groups. Among the group are formerly incarcerated individuals who offered unique perspectives on the needs and concerns of individuals involved in the criminal justice system that informed the stakeholder table deliberations.
Reentry Ready Project stakeholders examined ways to improve systems coordination to facilitate a ‘warm handoff’ from jails/prisons to reentry systems and resources that exist in the community, forming three working groups: education and employability, housing and community connections, and physical and behavioral health. This report includes the key recommendations and strategies and are intended to underscore that individuals involved in the criminal justice system need support to make a successful transition back to their community across several domains. Our goal now is to encourage others to share the recommendations widely and take deliberate steps to implement the recommendations in their jurisdictions.
In 2021, Convergence, our facilitation partner Consensus Building Institute (CBI), and dialogue participant Keesha Middlemass launched a first-ever local Convergence pilot. We have begun meeting with reentry stakeholders in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to assess the possibility for a facilitated planning process to improve coordination, reflecting the recommendations of the Reentry Ready participants.