Providing Meaningful Programs for Incarcerated Individuals and Preparation for Re-Entry
Published on November 16th, 2011
If New York State prisons are to be truly correctional facilities, then correctional planning for each inmate must begin at the start of incarceration. Accordingly, a pre-release plan should be developed upon reception that identifies specific therapeutic correctional programs, as well as occupational, educational and other training programs.
Repeated crime after release from prison, and repeated prison sentences are major drains on New York’s finances and quality of life. With tens of thousands of formerly incarcerated persons being released back into our communities each year, we must do more to reduce costly recidivism.
Comprehensive rehabilitation and re-entry planning must begin near the first days of incarceration, and be updated as needed. Programs to allow fulfillment of that plan require funding, so as to enable provision by the Department of Correction Services during incarceration and by community services after release.
The Catholic Conference, therefore, supports the preparation of a pre-release plan for each incarcerated individual upon reception into prison, funding to increase the number of therapeutic, educational and vocational programs within state correctional facilities, and the provision of a broader array of community reintegration programs for ex-offenders. These reintegration programs might include the establishment of resource centers, volunteer mentoring programs, halfway houses, and the inclusion of ex-offenders in faith-based social ministry programs. Community based programs of support and accountability have proven to be beneficial to individuals as they return to their home communities from prison.
When returning to the community, many formerly incarcerated individuals have a difficult time finding and keeping employment. Providing these men and women with education programs, job training opportunities and meaningful skills development while incarcerated will give them the tools they need to secure employment upon their release.
In addition to employment, released prisoners are also in need of housing, medical care and other support systems in order to make effective re-entry back into society after a period of incarceration. They often possess poor life management skills and a significant number are burdened with mental illness and chemical dependency.
The formerly incarcerated individuals who find themselves without support on the outside often resort to committing further criminal acts as a source of survival, and find themselves returned to the criminal justice system.
A problem identified at nearly every prison is the insufficient number of meaningful education, vocation and treatment programs. Waiting lists for these programs are uniformly long, materials and equipment are often outdated, and staff vacancies have caused the unnecessary suspension of courses. According to the Department of Correctional Services, approximately 52% of those incarcerated have no GED or high school diploma, and the system does not have sufficient space in classes to enroll them.
Yet research confirms that the more education an individual receives while incarcerated, the more likely he or she is to be successful and to avoid recidivism upon release. There is clearly a need to increase the education and vocation training programs in prisons.
Likewise, the number of community reintegration programs that treat addictions, assist with housing and employment needs and provide basic counseling during the initial phase of re-entry needs to be increased.
Investments along these lines will result in substantial net savings to the state through lower recidivism, increased public safety, and a reduction in families receiving social services as the formerly incarcerate individual becomes an income-producing contributor to the society in which he or she lives.
You can download this document, Providing Meaningful Programs for Incarcerated Individuals and for Re-Entry, in PDF form.