What are the long-term needs facing returning citizens?
Once former prisoners have worked on meeting their short-term needs, they can start addressing their long-term needs, which may include employment, reentry mentoring, relationship counseling, and prayer.
FINDING A JOB
Job hunting is hard enough without having a felony listed on your record. Around 60 percent of former prisoners are unemployed one year after their release. Often, conditions of parole may require a person to find employment within a short time frame, which can add to the burden of the job hunt. Many former prisoners often lack the skills necessary to even start looking for a job. Look in your community for ministries and resources that may already provide job training and opportunities for newly released prisoners.
If a former prisoner has a family and is going back to live with them, the relationship is about to experience a sudden change. Look in your church or community for ministries or resources that you can direct them to for family or individual counseling.
The outside world is filled with many distractions, temptations, and roadblocks for former prisoners. Prisoners can be proactive by contacting churches in their community up to a year before their release. If your church is contacted by a returning citizen before being released, assign an in-prison mentor who can begin building a relationship with them. In many cases, in-prison mentors are not permitted to continue the mentoring relationship post-release, so check with your state's rules about reentry mentors.
Mentoring provides support and accountability for former prisoners while they face the challenges of reentry. Having a mentor to support them and give them guidance can prove to be an invaluable asset. It is important to remember that mentors are not there to provide materially for them, as it is most beneficial for former prisoners to take responsibility for their own life and choices. Mentors can be there to encourage, befriend, and guide them as they prepare for reentry and once they leave prison.
Prayer is one of the most important ways that the church can support prisoners. By interceding for former prisoners, you are providing powerful support.
Reentering society is hard and takes time and ongoing support. By welcoming, nurturing, and encouraging them you can significantly improve their chances of success.
For more information and ideas on how you can help and support former prisoners as they transition into their new life, check out our prison ministry training resources.