It’s National Reentry Week this week, the second annual week of recognition promoting discussion on reentry services and the reentry needs of former offenders since the inaugural Reentry Week in April of 2016; and there certainly is still a lot to discuss.
Tens of millions of Americans have a criminal history. It is estimated that 1 in 3 U.S. adults has been arrested by age 23 and 2.2 million citizens are incarcerated in state and Federal prisons or local jails each year. Florida has approximately 150,000 inmates in its state prisons and local jails and an estimated 3 million residents with criminal records. For these individuals that are convicted and spend time behind bars, criminal records have long-term effects restricting their access to critical components of successful reentry: housing, employment, higher education, and credit.
Despite historically low crime rates and evidence that people tend to “age-out” of criminal behavior, there are still almost 50,000 legal barriers to employment, education, and licensure in Florida. Additionally, studies show that having any criminal record—even if it's from decades ago—appear on a background check can reduce job applicants’ chances of being considered for entry-level positions by up to 75 percent. Another study showed that almost 60 percent of responding academic institutions stated they reserve the right to deny admission on the basis of having a criminal record. Furthermore, of these colleges, one-third do not even have a process for applicants to appeal the admission decision.
This lack of access is a huge problem, as employment and education are two significant correlates of crime; employment, for example, has been shown to reduce recidivism by as much as 50 percent. Florida has a number of pre-arrest and post-arrest sentencing alternatives that can mitigate the effects of a criminal record, as well as reentry programs in the community that can help connect former offenders with critical services. It is essential that the state maximize these resources and enable former offenders to successfully reenter society. Improving availability and access to these essential reentry services will not only improve public safety, but also reduce taxpayer costs and improve the economy.
To learn more about how education and employment can improve reentry and the community, read TaxWatch’s Center for Smart Justice report, here.
For more information about the role that reentry services play in helping former offenders reintegrate into society, click here.