By Tony Lowden
America has one of the highest recidivism rates in the world with 44% of incarcerated individuals returning to prison within one year of release. We must come together as a nation to support returning citizens by giving them the resources and education they need to successfully break the incarceration cycle and reintegrate into society.
I was recently in Franklin, Ohio visiting a transitional facility that focuses on jobs and reintegration. I met with two cohorts of short timers during my visit and shared my 4 Ps: You have to change your playground, playthings, and playmates in order to find your purpose.
Change your playground
Getting a fresh start in a new environment can cut negative influences or triggers for criminal behavior. Studies show that returning citizens who relocate are less likely to recidivate than those who do not, with one study finding that relocation halved recidivism rates. Here at ViaPath Technologies, we offer housing resources for incarcerated individuals so that they can better prepare themselves for post-release life by positioning themselves in environments that support healthy reintegration. We understand that building a new community is key to cultivating the stability that breaks the cycle of incarceration.
Change your playmates
Building healthy relationships is essential to successful reintegration. Simply returning to old friend groups can lock you into the same influences and patterns that led to previous criminal behavior. Corrections facilities often provide a variety of programs designed to promote healthy lifestyles which returning citizens can – and should – continue using after release. Intentionally transitioning into new circles with friends who support and exemplify better lifestyles can offer a sense of belonging outside the criminal world, which reduces the chances of returning to criminal activities.
Change your playthings
Changing your activities incorporates both employment opportunities and leisure time. Research has shown that stable employment is a key factor in reducing recidivism. Change can begin before release, with many correctional facilities providing opportunities to enhance hireability through programs with tangible results such as earning GEDs, enhancing literacy or receiving vocational training. Taking advantage of these programs offers returning citizens the opportunity to gain financial independence, which reduces the economic incentives for criminal activities and provides purpose. Intentionally engaging in constructive leisure activities helps reduce exposure to old influences while cultivating positive interactions with society.
Find your purpose
Discovering your purpose is the most important part of successfully reintegrating into society. Incarceration shouldn’t be wasted time – it’s a unique and valuable opportunity to break old habits and learn new skills. Partnering with organizations such as ViaPath and our staffing agency 2C Workforce Solutions to make the most of a fresh start can be the key to finding the purpose that breaks the cycle of incarceration.
Chief Social Impact Officer of ViaPath Technologies