Reentry into society weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of those currently serving time in prison or those who have recently been released. Adapting to a new life, reconnecting with family and finding employment all cause significant stress, according to a new report.
Florida State University’s Institute for Justice Research and Development just released the second in a series of reports being produced for a study on reentry.
The study compares participants who receive existing reentry services versus those who receive the 5 Key Model approach developed by IJRD’s Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis and others.
The new report looks at the psychological toll reentry takes on those receiving existing state-based services who are preparing to leave prison or have just been released.
Finding a job
One of the most daunting struggles faced by formerly incarcerated individuals is finding work.
Researchers detailed their conversations with study participants who said they were anxious about being able to provide for themselves or their families. Many with felony convictions expressed frustrations that their records were keeping them from getting hired.
“Finding a job is the most hard [part of reentry],” one participant said. “I can’t get hired when they hear I’m a felon.”
Another participant agreed, saying, “The biggest challenge is getting a job with a felony conviction – interviewed for four jobs, didn’t get them. This felony conviction seems to be the reason I’m not getting work.”
Slow pace of reentry
In addition to securing work, the study found another cause of stress is the slow pace of reentry – including finding housing, enrolling in treatment programs and completing job training and education programs. Many are ready to take on life outside of prison but feel trapped in a world they don’t understand anymore.
“It is like I am still in prison, just out here” one participant said of his re-entry experience. “I expected to feel more free,” said another participant, commenting on the effects of post-release supervision.
The study also found that those with families are highly dependent on family members for financial, emotional, spiritual and material support. This can cause stress for those who worry about reconnecting with children or providing for spouses.
However, those participants who are married have an easier time reentering society. This speaks to the importance of support systems and personal connections for formerly incarcerated individuals.
Eager to succeed
Despite the stress and anxiety that reentry causes, IJRD’s research shows formerly incarcerated individuals are “eager to succeed after prison.”
That’s why it’s so important to test and implement programming and interventions tailored to specific challenges, like the 5-Key Model for Reentry being tested by IJRD. Returning citizens who receive programming that meets their needs will have a greater chance at successfully leaving prison behind them and coping with the stress of reentry.