A better path forward for criminal justice: Prisoner reentry
- Over 640,000 people return to our communities from prison each year.
- Prisoner reentry should be understood as a critical piece of any racial justice agenda.
- A well-developed, evidence-supported action plan for enhancing transitions from prison to society will focus on increasing independence, reducing racial and ethnic disparities, and achieving public safety.
Editor's Note: Below is the seventh chapter from "A Better Path Forward for Criminal Justice," a report by the Brookings-AEI Working Group on Criminal Justice Reform. You can access other chapters from the report here.
"More than half of the formerly incarcerated are unable to find stable employment within their first year of return and three-fourths of them are rearrested within three years of release."
More than 640,000 people return to our communities from prison annually. The lack of institutional support, statutorily imposed legal barriers, stigmas, and low wages, the formerly incarcerated are not set up for success after serving their sentence, making most prison sentences for life - especially for members of Black and Brown communities. More than half of the formerly incarcerated are unable to find stable employment within their first year of return and three-fourths of them are rearrested within three years of release.
Research has demonstrated that health, housing, skill development, mentorship, social networks, and the collaborative efforts of public and private organizations collectively improve the reentry experience. Prisoner reentry should be understood as a critical piece of any racial justice agenda. Imprisonment rates are five to eight times higher for Black Americans than any other racial/ethnic group, and historically disenfranchised neighborhoods receive the bulk of returning citizens. For example, a recent study of reentry in Boston found that 40 percent of a reentry program’s participants returned to just two neighborhoods. Ultimately, reentry experiences are shaped by class and racialized neighborhood segregation.