AMU Corrections Law Enforcement Original Public Safety

Reducing the Rate of Recidivism for Former Prison Inmates

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice

Ultimately, most people who go to prison will be released back into society. Ideally, these former inmates should return to society rehabilitated and prepared to be productive members of society. Upon their release, they will be in our communities and potentially around our families at grocery stores and other locations.

Prisoners commonly have access to rehabilitation programs during their incarceration. Coupled with a job opportunity, that training can result in former inmates becoming productive members of society and reduce recidivism.

The US Has the Biggest Prison Population in the World

Training former inmates to lower recidivism is crucial because the United States has the biggest prison population in the world. There were almost two million adults incarcerated in the United States in 2020, according to the 2020 Decennial Census. According to the Department of Justice, over 650,000 former offenders are released from prison yearly.

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion also notes that two out of three released inmates are arrested again within three years of their release, and over 50% of those people are incarcerated again. These statistics reflects the importance of complementing job opportunities with effective rehabilitation. To reduce inmate recidivism, job opportunities and effective rehabilitation must work simultaneously.

How to Help Former Inmates to Become Productive Citizens

I have spent a lot of time studying the effectiveness of rehabilitation at prisons in the United States and abroad. What I have noticed is that the rehabilitation of inmates is most effective when they first deal with what issue led them to prison: drug addiction, substance abuse, anger, mental health problems and other issues.

A change in the mindset and thought processes that led to those inmates becoming criminals is an essential first step, often occurring through effective, faith-based rehabilitation programs in the prison. These programs are sometimes available through prison initiatives or outside non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with personnel who come into the prison to reform inmates.

The second most effective step that I have seen is for inmates to learn a trade or skill or gain an education or other job credentials while they are still incarcerated. The third and final step – the one that often poses the biggest pitfall in the rehabilitation process – is finding job opportunities once those inmates are released into society.

For former prisoners, it is hard to overcome the stigma of being labeled as a convicted felon. A former inmate will typically struggle to find job opportunities, despite the personal and professional growth that has occurred during incarceration.

Employers Can Do More to Help Former Inmates

Community leaders and employers can help former inmates to become productive members of society by providing job opportunities. There are a lot of success stories of rehabilitated former inmates who successfully became productive members of their communities by being offered gainful employment upon release.

Understandably, employers often hesitate to give a job to someone who has been convicted of a felony. However, there are some key things that prospective employers can seek from former inmates when determining whether to hire them.

For instance, employers could ask a former inmate for trade certificates, diplomas and other awards that were issued through a rehabilitation program or an NGO. These types of credentials are evidence of someone’s determination to change his or her life. 

Hope for Prisoners Provides Opportunities

There are also organizations that prospective employers can partner with to identify former inmates who may be a good fit for their company. One of those organizations is Hope for Prisoners, founded by Jon Ponder. Ponder is a visionary in re-entry programs and a former prisoner himself. This groundbreaking organization is changing the lives of thousands of former inmates.

In addition to providing inmates with programs that help prepare them for life upon release, Hope for Prisoners partners with employers to ensure that former inmates succeed in the workplace by coaching and mentoring them. Hope for Prisoners has numerous national partners. Employers can communicate with this organization regarding the areas that former inmates can strengthen, and Hope for Prisoners will work directly with former inmates to help them reach their full potential.

Hope for Prisoners provides more than just mentoring in the workplace and reducing recidivism. They provide valuable life skills, problem-solving skills, and other training to former prisoners to help them become productive members of their community and support their families.

Advantages of Hiring Former Inmates

There are some advantages to hiring someone who was formerly incarcerated. One study showed that employing former prisoners has several benefits that employing former prisoners has several benefits:

  • Employees with a criminal record were more productive than those without a record
  • Providing steady employment is a leading factor in reducing recidivism.
  • Government programs may provide incentives for hiring those with previous felonies.

Furthermore, hiring former inmates provides the opportunity to enable people to provide for their families and to help them build job skills on the job. These former prisoners will carry these skills with them for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies and has over two decades in the field of criminal justice. His expertise includes training on countering human trafficking, maritime security, effective stress management in policing and narcotics trafficking trends in Latin America. Jarrod frequently conducts in-country research and consultant work in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He also has a background in business development. Jarrod can be reached through his website at www.Sadulski.com for more information.

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