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April is Second Chance Month!

The National Institute of Justice defines reentry as “the transition from life in jail or

prison to life in the community” (NIJ). According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics,

approximately 600,000 people are released from state and federal prisons annually, with another 9 million people from local jails (CDC, 2023). Successful reentry is not solely about an individual’s return from incarceration, it is also about upholding the well-being of our communities as a whole.

However, due to several factors, an individual will fail to successfully reintegrate into society and end up back in the justice system. This is referred to as recidivism, which the National Institute of Justice defines as “a person’s relapse in criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime” (USDOJ, 2022). Based on a 2016 study, of 2,145 MADOC criminal releases, 30% recidivated within three years of release (Mici, 2022).

Individuals reentering society after being incarcerated encounter a range of challenges that necessitate tailored solutions. According to the National Reentry Resource Center, the prevalence of serious mental disorders among incarcerated individuals is three to six times higher than in the general population. Additionally, a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey revealed that roughly half of those in state and federal prisons grapple with some form of substance use disorder. Moreover, 70 percent of individuals with mental illness also struggle with co-occurring substance use disorders.

Returning individuals also confront housing challenges. A national survey indicated that 15 percent of incarcerated individuals were homeless in the year preceding their incarceration, a rate up to 11 times higher than that of the general US population. Education and employment are additional hurdles. Two out of five incarcerated individuals lack a high school diploma or equivalent, leading to lower employment rates compounded by mental illness, housing insecurity, disabilities, and the stigma associated with a criminal record.

The implementation and success of reentry initiatives that address these challenges requires support from the government. In April 2008, Congress passed the Second Chance Act (SCA) which “supports state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations in their work to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for people returning from state and federal prisons, local jails, and juvenile facilities” (USDOJ, 2022). One provision in the Second Chance Act designates April as National Second Chance Month, which is focused on prevention, barriers to reentry, and support for individuals both entering and returning from prison” (USDOJ, 2022).


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