Many of the more than 630,000 people released each year from corrections institutions in the U.S. face a range of obstacles to re-entering society. Many of them, says the Wall Street Journal, are put there by federal, state and local governments, including hurdles to getting student loans, public housing, and other forms of government assistance. The Journal reports an “emerging belief” that the practical barriers facing ex-prisoners make it more likely that they will slip back into a life of crime. Two-thirds of ex-felons return to police custody within three years of their release for new crimes or for probation or parole violations.
“One barrier may not be that big a deal,” says Debbie Mukamal, director of the prisoner re-entry institute at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Usually, offenders face several barriers: “You can’t get housing, you have child support” payments to make, “you can’t get ID and no one will hire you. Cumulatively, that sends a signal: You’re not wanted.” Mukamal is the co-author of a federally-funded report last year by the Legal Action Center, a New York nonprofit, examining “roadblocks to entry” facing ex-offenders. The pending federal Second Chance Act would provide more than $80 million in grants for programs to help ex-offenders re-enter society. The Journal tells the stories of former convicts who face significant re-entry challenges.