The U.S. is known to be among the countries with the highest incarceration rate in the world. With nearly two million people in prison, it is worth considering whether experiences of incarceration are actually effective in deterring people from crime. Incarcerated people tend to be undereducated and lack work experience before entering prison. Once they leave prison, many continue to struggle with finding a job, housing, and overall reentering society. Research shows that prison can be a turning point from crime, but only when individuals have adequate resources to succeed following their release. But what resources are out there to help people successfully re-integrate into society following their time in prison?


There are many employment-based reentry programs that are specifically geared towards helping incarcerated individuals get back on their feet after prison. These programs provide services to help individuals overcome barriers such as employment and housing discrimination through structured programming, case management, and referrals. Many also offer support and services around other needs such as mental health, substance abuse, and overall attitudes and behaviors.


A crucial aspect that these programs offer is social support and inspiration. Interviews with participants in reentry programs reveal that social support gained through programs are valuable in helping participants restore personal relationships and form new ones by learning to develop healthy relationships. For example, experiences with providers who genuinely cared for them or believed in them helped participants to be successful in reentry programs. These, beyond the practical services and training provided by reentry programs, are some of the factors that indirectly help individuals to turn towards a more prosocial path and commit to positive changes in the long-term.


Citation: Towne, K., Campagna, M., Spohn, R., & Richey, A. (2023). “Put it in Your Toolbox”: How Vocational Programs Support Formerly Incarcerated Persons through Reentry. Crime and Delinquency, 69(2), 316–341.