The number of people incarcerated in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last three decades. Today, more than 2 million people are incarcerated in federal and state prisons and local jails, and almost 700,000 people are released from state prisons each year. Corrections costs exceed $65 billion per year, with most of this total borne by state and local governments.
Men and women released from prison often face daunting obstacles as they move back to their communities. They frequently have difficulties finding jobs and housing, and experience problems reconnecting with family and other social supports. In addition, former prisoners are concentrated in a relatively small number of distressed urban neighborhoods that lack resources to assist in the reentry process. Not surprisingly, many end up returning to prison, a disastrous result for them, their families and communities, taxpayers, and public safety.
Prisoner reentry has attracted increasing attention in recent years, as states seek ways to reduce recidivism and control surging corrections costs. While most experts believe that stable employment is critical to a successful transition from prison to the community, there is little hard evidence about which program practices are effective at promoting successful transitions or reducing recidivism.
This policy brief describes an ongoing initiative, the Joyce Foundation’s Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration, that seeks to learn what works best to help former prisoners make a successful transition back into society. (author abstract)