Consider the types of support an ex-prisoner might need when returning home.
Every year, approximately 700,000 men and women are released from U.S. prisons. That's the equivalent of about 2,000 ex-prisoners a day returning to communities across the country.
Going home after being in prison is a very challenging transition for most newly-released prisoners, as well as their families and communities. Recidivism studies show that without intervention, two-thirds of those released will return to prison within three years. Sadly, prisoners often go back to prison not because they committed a crime, but because they simply violated parole.
To break this cycle, an effective reentry ministry must consider the needs in all areas of the returning citizen’s life: social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, environmental, and physical. These are the most common needs of a newly-released person returning to your community.
IMMEDIATE NEEDS OF EX-PRISONERS
- Safe housing
- Adequate food
- Clothing and personal care items
- A church home
- Emotional and spiritual support
- Proper identification
- Access to a phone
- Medical and dental care; psychiatric care
- Alcohol or substance-abuse treatment and rehabilitation
ONGOING NEEDS NEEDS OF EX-PRISONERS
- Life-skills training and preparation
- Income to cover ongoing expenses
- Further educational and/or vocational training
- Professional services (attorney, accountant, counselor, etc.)
- Mentoring and spiritual guidance/support
- Counseling for family and marital problems
- Strong friendships with other Christian believers
Recidivism is frequently related to medical issues and/or substance abuse. For example, a person may be diagnosed with a medical or psychiatric problem and given medication while in prison. But when released, that medical or psychiatric care is discontinued. Many resort to using alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate, thereby violating their terms of parole and eventually being rearrested.
The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., has conducted a long-term study on the many challenges faced by ex-prisoners when they return home. Click this link for a summary of their findings: Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry
Recovering from the losses and dehumanization of incarceration doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and ongoing support. The healing and restoration of ex-prisoners is most effective when it takes place among a strong body of believers who are fully committed to demonstrating Christ's love toward prodigal sons and daughters returning home.