First let me tell you what they don’t look like.
The prison gate opens and an ex-felon walks out after years or decades with the clothes on his back, no place to go, no family or support, no job, sometimes with no ID, two weeks of medication for their medical and psychiatric needs if they are lucky and $25.00 ‘gate money.’
What does a successful re-entry program look like inside a prison?
1. When they come into the prison they are evaluated and assessed for what they specifically need that will help them re-integrate into society and those needs that are addressed have to be tracked for efficacy.
2. They have to be looked at as an individual with different needs and capacities and the program has to be tailored for them.
3. The individuals who work with felons have to have the temperament and skills to help them vs. harm them.
4. Incentives in prison should be given for successful completion of programs that benefit the individual. They may include – programs on helping change criminal thinking, educational programs such as literacy, communication, resume building, financial literacy, computer skills, GED, college degrees, certificates that show they are trained in a marketable skills like fork lift, food handling etc.
5. The prison needs to facilitate the continued connection of the individual in prison with their family, not make it harder.
6. In prison they need access to a job where they can learn punctuality, conscientiousness, a skill and make some money. 10% of the money should be placed in an interest bearing bank account which they have access to when they leave.
7. 18-24 months before they leave they should be in a transitional housing unit where they can work in the outside world and get the basics in place like a valid ID, housing and employment with the help of a social worker.
8. If they are suffering from significant medical or psychiatric needs coordination with outside agencies have to be done 6 months before they leave.
9. Before they leave they need to have access to appropriate clothing for job interviews.
10.During their stay in prison they should be encouraged and rewarded for being of service to others. An example would be being a hospice assistant to prisoners who are dying.
11.The prison needs to facilitate programs that include volunteers and mentors from the outside world. They may range from religious to entrepreneurship groups.