The Jolt of Jail (and Life Afterward)


Jail or prison, however well deserved, is certainly everyday life put on pause.

Employed? You’re not going to work (and if made a felon, you’ll have trouble getting hired in the future). Have a family? You won’t be home for dinner. Any other engagements or other obligations could also go by the wayside while doing time. Will those outside give up on you? Will you give up on them?

While this may seem a problem for those in a small criminal “minority,” that so-called minority is now 12 million people a year who are processed at U.S. jails — most of whom will serve short sentences and re-enter society.

That population is the subject of a new paper by the Urban Institute entitled “Life After Lockup: Improving Reentry from Jail to the Community.”

Its five authors talk about the “everyday realities” for these 12 million people:

“The lives of many who cycle in and out of jail are unstable at best. Substance addiction, job and housing instability, mental illness, and a host of health problems are part of the day-today realities for a significant share of this population. Given that more than 80 percent of inmates are incarcerated for less than 1 month–many for only a few hours or days–jails have little time or capacity to address these deep-rooted and often overlapping issues. Moreover, no single organization or political leader in the community is responsible–or held accountable–for improving reentry outcomes.”

So, what to do about this problem? In short, the authors believe in a tightening of their life “networks”:

“At the individual level, short lengths of stay and locally sited facilities translate into relatively little time away from–and even continued contact with–family, friends, treatment providers, employers, the faith community, and other positive social supports. If jail reentry efforts can help strengthen the ties between incarcerated individuals and these important social networks, the efforts could yield substantial gains in terms of safer communities, improved public health, and a reduced burden on taxpayer dollars.”

5 thoughts on “The Jolt of Jail (and Life Afterward)

  1. This is something that does need to be looked at. There are some who have had to go to prison for short period time for their lack judgment in their specific situation. This does not make these individual “felons” bad people, it was their actions from lapse of judgment in the error of their thinking.

    They go through a process of being sentenced, go through prison and/or work release, have their restitution hearing that is set and eventually they get released with a period of time under supervision.

    There is much adjusting that has to happen. But it is important for the ties to family/friends and others be in place. I feel for us to have “felons” be successful in their re-entry there needs to be a support system in place on many levels.

    With that said, I sometimes wonder how successful this can be when you have victims you are very vocal in their anger, etc., which is another level and understandable. However, if you see that a “felon” is being successful after his/her release and is trying to prove themselves as worthy citizens, I see this attitude to be counterproductive.

    For example, there are those victims, that even though there is a restitution that has been set has decided that they are still angry and file civil charges against the “offender”. So I really wonder about this aspect and how this really helps the situation. Does this reduce the burden on taxpayer dollars when the “offender” is unable to afford to hire an attorney and has to rely on a public defender through taxpayer monies?

  2. There is one major group of people who, as usual when reentry is debated, that are left out. That is the victims/survivors of crime and the effects reentry has on them. Imagine how it feels when the person who killed your kid gets to serve his prison sentence in your neighborhood, being released 50% early of his sentence. The authors of this paper can’t tell you about recidivisim rates for people who are in reentry programs because they are not tracked. First of all if reentry is going to be succesful then the need for more housing, probation officers, treatment providers, jobs, health care, will need to be available. And who will be paying for that? I attended a few meetings in Olympia last year on offender reentry and it boiled down to where the savings is minimal at best, recidivisim of offenders was estimated to be about 78%, and there are not the resourses to support it. They talked about giving incentives to landlords to provide apartments for felons in reentry programs. (Know who your neighbors are). In this state there are those incarcerated for violent crimes (rape, homicide, 1st degree assault, kidnapping,etc.) who are being released sometimes 50% early to work release facilities or half way houses. They are most always released to the county where they committed the crime, usually the county where their victim/survivor resides. Just recently DOC released a rapist to an underpass with an ankle bracelet within 5 miles of his victims home and in the neiborhood where her children attend school. While she was notified of his release she was not told where and was not told that he cut off the braclet and is now escaped. Victims/survivors do not have the right to have any say when it comes to release. Personnally I would rather see more resources brought to the jail or prison. I don’t like the fact that “prisoners” are serving their sentences in the community. One only has to check out the sherriffs jail incustody list to see how many offenders under the supervision of DOC are arrested for violations in this county every day. These are the ones who, while serving prison sentences in the community, are violating or escapeing and are sometimes committing additional violent crimes. Perhaps reentry programs would be benificial to some, someday, but I don’t like the fact that this state is putting the horse before the cart. Supervision of offenders is very minimal and resources available to them are few. This is the state of catch and release.

  3. JA I don’t think you understand what restitution is. Its for funerals, medical treatment, property loss and out of pocket expenses that the victims/survivors have incurred and paid for because of the crime comitted against them, up to the time of sentencing. Sometimes insurance companies file for restitution as well which can be a huge amount. Civil action is brought when there are ongoing, sometimes for life, medical expenses, pain and suffering, continued loss of work and income, mental anguish etc. How nice if the felon becomes the pillar of society after sentencing, goes on to a happy and prosperous life. That’s what we all want. What about the devastated lives left in his/her wake of crime? There are victims who spend the rest of thier lives in wheel chairs, life support, TBI, fear and develope mental problems because of a crime committed against them. Too bad if the offender can’t afford an attorney, they have the right to a public defender and there is a large fund to provide that for them. However for victims/survivors there is very little. Many have to be put on disability at an early age, many are unable to work ever again, they lose their homes and are forced to stand in line at the food bank. So think about that when you are so concerned about your tax dollars and the cost of crime. Victims/survivors have the right to be angry and to be angry at a justice system where they have few rights and little representation.

    Offender reentry is an important issue. If it TRUELY reduces crime then it will follow that there will be less victims. However it angers me that when these studies and task forces on reentry are put together they leave out crime victims. In this entire Urban Institute paper put together by people in the justice system there is only one name (Susan Sumith Howley of the National Center for Victims of Crime) that took part in its writing. I would call that a pretty slim representation. And that is why some crime victims/survivors get vocal, get angry and work to change laws that will protect and benifit all of us.

  4. No, I am not versed in all the legalities because I have never been in this situation let alone had anyone I know in this situation. I appreciate the information, and understand better. But I will be honest, I felt like you were attacking me for responding to this blog posting with what I said. I am not minimizing what victims have been through, I was responding to the blog posting and was expressing some thoughts, mostly in terms of “felons” having a network of people for support. That process of thinking went on down the road for me in a “what if” scenario. I may not be as informed as you, and appreciate having some additional insight.

  5. Keep in mind im 15 and not the best at writing.
    I had a idea that should be more humane for criminals and just as effective as putting them in prison. You basicly have a metal neck brace that can send neutralizing amounts of electricity into a person. The neck brace has a gps in it and if you are trying to break it it has sensors like houses have for security. If you go against any rules that they know you are tracked and taken back to a holding center similair to solitary. You basicly spend all your time instead wasting away in prison doing nothing to helping the world out and being put on a leash basicly. They would be much happier and they wouldnt harm anyone because they would loose the kind of freedom they have now. When outside on this electric leash you would be constantly doing community service. If most or almost all prisoners were put on this leash tens of thousands of people would be able to make the world better without harming anyone. Not every prisoner would be given this opportunity like alot of killers and/or rapists among others. This would also make prisoners more happy but still be under control. The prisoner can choose between jail/solitary or semi-freedom outside. They could go back to there old jobs and there loved ones if it would be appropiate. There can be all sorts of rules like keeping on schedule for service and no harming people or harrasing people. They would also see therapy and counselors to get their life back on track. This would cost alot of money originally to make the neck-braces but the service they will provide people will be far more beneficial to everyone including the criminals. The justice system would be more for helping people then revenge for their crime. This is as good or better then things like house-arrest and half-way house.

    I was wondering what some people would think of my idea.

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