The Issue

It is estimated that 15 million formerly incarcerated persons live in the US today: nearly 7 percent of the adult population.

An estimated 640,000 inmates were released from state prisons in 2005.

Within three years, 67 percent of these individuals will be rearrested, and over half will return to prison.

Given the tremendous investment that states are making – an estimated $40.7 billion in correction costs alone in 2004 – policymakers are concerned about whether or not they are getting the most return on their investment in terms of public safety to getting the greatest return.

The Challenge

Reintegrating formerly incarcerated persons has attracted growing attention. As the nation’s prison population has swelled, unemployment for those who are released remains around 30 to 50 percent several months out of jail.

Reentry is a critical issue for three reasons: the growing prison population and numbers of returning offenders; the impact of returning prisoners on crime rates; and the rising cost of corrections.

According to the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, there are a number of key steps that policymakers and other stakeholders within the criminal justice field can take in order to improve the reentry process.

  • Raising the profile of prisoner reentry as a public safety issue, not solely a corrections issue
  • Improving the way in which prisoners are prepared in prison for their release
  • Improving the process by which prisoners exit prisons, so that key supporters and services to key supports and services
  • Developing reentry initiatives that build on key social relationships – such as family, friends, and the faith community – and improve access to community-based supports and services
  • Targeting and supporting high-risk communities to which the majority of prisoners return

Reentry Strategies Institute is the only national criminal justice intermediary explicitly focused on reentry. Utilizing a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, our goal is to design, support and advocate effective and affordable reentry programs that promote individual and community health, wealth and safety. The vision for RSI is to create a national footprint for successful reentry.

Donor Engagement

On a national level, RSI has developed two national networks. The first is a donors network committed to increasing financial resources directed to the field of reentry.

We are working to educate donors on the importance and necessity of supporting reentry programs in the areas of heath, employment, housing, and community development.

The Reentry Donors Network (RDN) is comprised of donors from foundations, corporations and individuals.

Our donor network engages funders who are not currently providing direct support to criminal justice work in an effort to bring new financial resources into the field.

RSI is working with funders who are supporting “fringe” areas of reentry, such as housing, economic development and employment, and leveraging best practice within the criminal justice field to raise awareness and grant funds for reentry.

Currently over 50 percent of funding within the criminal justice field comes from the federal government. Various programs from Health and Human Services to the Department of Justice have provided invaluable financial resources to state and community based reentry programs.

Now that the U.S. is engaged in war times, and the deficit is skyrocketing, the funds allocated to criminal justice are quite vulnerable. Currently existing grant programs are coming to a close and new funds are hung up in legislation.

Now is the time to diversify and increase funding dedicated to the field of reentry. Such dollars are needed to insure the long-term sustainability of reentry work. As the number of former felons being released increases, the funding to support them needs to keep pace.

Reaching Employers

RSI has created an Employers Network to engage employers who are currently, or interested in employing formerly incarcerated persons.

This network identifies and promotes best practice, and facilitates the use of tax credits, corporate philanthropy and other financial incentives to promote job creation.

The goal of the network is three-fold.

1. To engage employers who are active in employing formerly incarcerated persons and promote their successes and challenges in an effort to increase employment opportunities within the company and in new companies.

2. To engage interested employers and assist them in employing formerly incarcerated persons through collateral materials and training programs for business owners and senior management.

3. To align corporate philanthropy to support community based reentry work and create a multiplier effect and increase ROI in local communities.

The United States is facing a growing gap between the number of jobs available and the number of individuals in the workforce. Over the next 30 years, 76 million baby boomers will retire, while there will only be 46 million new workers from Generations X and Y entering the labor force.

Employers faced with a dwindling workforce will need to reach out to populations that have traditionally been underutilized and marginalized.

They will need to look at senior citizens, welfare recipients and even formerly incarcerated persons. These groups will be viable alternatives for employers due to their size within the population.

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About Melissa

Melissa Bradley is Founder and Managing Director of New Capitalist™. In this role, she has facilitated over $20MM in private equity transactions for seed-stage companies and generated an average of 20 percent return on behalf of investors.

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