THEY ALL COME HOME: Returning Home From Jail or Prison

When Lamar M. exited the bus arriving at the New York City Port Authority from the Clinton Correctional Facility in the Village of Dannemora, upstate New York, he was lost.

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The last time he was in the city was 15 years, 3 months and 27 days ago. He was sent to prison for selling crack cocaine.

Having spent the last 15 years incarcerated, Lamar did not have a reliable place to stay, few friends or family and no job.

Although clean, he knew the temptations pulling at him—even while incarcerated—would kick in and he really wanted help.

This story, true, happens every day in almost every major city and small town across America. And, while the total numbers vary—depending on who is counting and who is counted—the challenges for these cities and towns is how to systematically incorporate the flow of mostly men (but some women) into society as newly functioning productive citizens.

It is, after all, harder than it sounds as movies and folklore have it “you committed the crime, you did your time now resettle and become a productive citizen.” It is not that easy!

But, since these newly released prisoners are less likely to have participated in rehabilitation programs than prisoners in the past, they come back with few if any skills. This is a black mark that does not help the re-entry process.

Then, there is the issue of meeting the requirements of parole. Far more prisoners return to their respective communities on parole than on unconditional release. This means the urgency for a job (and housing) is imminent.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that, as sociologist Devah Pager showed in her experiment {Pager, Devah. 2003. “The Mark of a Criminal Record.” American Journal of Sociology 108(5): 937-975} society treats Blacks and Whites looking for work differently. That is, race matters. But, so does felony status. Black men returning from prison find they have at least two strikes against them.

And, as we show in our research so does access to friends, family, business associates ALL who can help establish the connections and networking needed to be successful.

Also, very important is that public housing restrictions work against securing a place to live; in some states felons are banned from living with friends and / or relatives in public housing while trying to get settled.

At last check, Lamar did not make it. The temptations mentioned above pulled him back to drug dealing and in one deal that went wrong he accidentally (according to him) shot a women who later died in the hospital.

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As a three-time offender, Lamar M. is now serving a life sentence.

Hence, as a society we need more expansive and effective, user-friendly ways to make re-entry doable for those men and women who have completed their punishment and want to move on with their lives.

 

For more, see: Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith, Prisoner Reentry and Social Capital: The Long Road to Reintegration.

http://www.amazon.com/Prisoner-Reentry-Social-Capital-Reintegration/dp/0739143891