NEW REPORT: Incarcerated Individuals Want to Be Rehabilitated, Are Hungry for Second Chances as They Reenter Society

Arlington, VA – Incarcerated individuals want to be rehabilitated, are eager for a second chance, and are emotionally capable of successfully reentering society, new independent data shows.

According to statistics compiled by Florida State University (FSU) researchers, both male and female participants said they want to work more, learn more, and spend more time on personal relationships, improving their health, and practicing their faith than they currently do while incarcerated. They also reported fairly high levels of emotional well-being, suggesting that they are primed to successfully rejoin society upon their release.

“Individuals with in-prison access to positive social engagement and programs that provide meaningful work trajectories are more likely to succeed following their release,” said Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis, Professor at FSU’s College of Social Work and Principal Researcher of Safe Streets & Second Chances. “Our data suggests that individuals are eager to get back to work after release from prison and build a strong network of personal and community relationships – all keys to positive reentry.”

Of the 1,100 inmates participating in the program, half will receive existing services offered by the prisons in which they are serving their sentences and the communities they return to. The other half will receive Dr. Pettus-Davis’s Five Key Model for Reentry, an approach based on healthy thinking patterns, meaningful work trajectories, effective coping strategies, positive social engagement, and positive interpersonal relationships.

“The data compiled by Florida State University’s world-class research team shows that individuals want opportunities to rebuild their lives and are hungry for a second chance,” said Mark Holden, Koch Industries General Counsel and Senior Vice President, and Advisory Council Chairman of Safe Streets & Second Chances. “We hope the innovative, evidence-driven approach will enhance public safety, inform best practices at the local level, and change the game for returning citizens.”

On August 1st, participating inmates will begin releasing from prisons located in the project’s four pilot states – Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. After these individuals are released, researchers will monitor them for 15 months, producing quarterly progress reports along the way that measure recidivism rates and other outcomes. Given the national shortage of quality criminal justice data, this research has the potential to inform better policy decision-making at all levels of government.

“Rather than simply warehousing people, our prisons should give individuals the tools needed to flourish when they return to our communities,” said John Koufos, National Director of Reentry Initiatives at Right on Crime, and Executive Director of Safe Streets & Second Chances. “States like Texas have shown that, through programs that address the root causes of incarceration, we can safely reduce crime rates, protect our neighborhoods, and open doors for those who have paid their debt to society.”

According to the data, inmates want to rehabilitate themselves through work, education, and faith, and spend more time on personal relationships.

  • Respondents expressed a desire to work or improve their work situation.
    • Men reported working about two hours a day but said they would like to work almost four times that amount.
    • Women reported working almost 1.5 hours per day but said they’d like to work over three times that amount.
  • Overall, respondents said they’d like to spend twice the amount of time they currently spend on school activities.
  • Both men and women said they want to devote more time to community involvement and spend twice as much time working on personal relationships.
  • Both groups said they’d like to spend more time each week on spiritual or religious activities.

Next, while individuals said they had experienced a generally high level of trauma in life, they also reported a fairly high level of emotional well-being.

  • Nearly 70 percent of participants said they had seen someone seriously injured or killed.
  • 50 percent said they had seen dead bodies (other than at a funeral) or had to handle dead bodies. Male respondents reported experiencing this an average of over 17 times.
  • Over 40 percent said they had been attacked with a gun, knife, or some other weapon by someone, including a family member or friend.
  • About 57 percent said that a close friend or family member had been murdered.
  • Over 32 percent of female respondents said they had been forced to have intercourse or another form of sex against their will.
  • On average, females reported having experienced sexual abuse as a child 8.88 times.
  • 58 percent reported having a drug use disorder, while 35 percent reported having an alcohol use disorder.
  • While both men and women reported similar levels of childhood emotional abuse, they also reported fairly high levels of current emotional well-being, suggesting that they are emotionally resilient and fit to contribute to society in a positive way.

Some other key demographics of the participants:

  • Average age is 37.
  • 92 percent are men.
  • 70 percent have at least one child. That number is 82 percent among female respondents.
  • 47 percent are African-American, 34 percent are white, and 9 percent are Latino.
  • 64 percent are single, 11 percent are divorced, 11 percent are in a relationship, and 10 percent are married.

The research was conducted this summer with 621 of the 1,100 inmates that will ultimately be tracked across the four pilot states. These individuals are spread out across 48 prisons in both urban and rural settings.

Safe Streets & Second Chances leaders are available to discuss these findings. To schedule an interview, please contact