Even after someone has paid their debt to society, the odds against finding employment and decent housing upon release from prison are stacked against them, as state laws make it difficult for a convicted felon to reenter society. A study released in 2014 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics tracked 404,638 state prisoners from 30 states who were released in 2005. 67.8 percent were rearrested within three years of being released and 76.6 percent were rearrested within five years.
But while recidivism rates in the U.S. remain alarmingly high, the good news is that rehabilitation, especially education and vocational training programs, is an effective way to help ex-offenders rebuild their lives and become valued members of society.
Criminal Rehabilitation Statistics
Although the numbers have declined slightly in recent years, the U.S. still has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Interestingly, Texas has significantly reduced its prison population, going so far as to shut down three prisons in the last three years, thanks to aggressive rehabilitation and probation reforms. (However, Texas state laws are designed to effectively strip away the civil rights of ex-felons. Texas also has the second highest number of executions per capita in the country, with Oklahoma being number one.)
Education is key to keeping a person out of prison in the first place. A high school dropout is 3.5 times more likely to get arrested than a high school graduate, and 68 percent of all males in U.S. prisons do not have a high school diploma.
Both educational and vocational training programs work in combination to improve an ex-offender’s chances of successfully re-entering society despite having a criminal record. Studies continue to show that employment is higher and recidivism is lower among ex-offenders who participated in educational training programs, including adult basic education, getting a high school diploma or GED, and postsecondary education, than those who did not.
These types of rehabilitation programs get results, and need to be made available for offenders while they are in prison, as well as upon their release.
Rehabilitation After Prison
Here in Houston and across Texas, there are several examples of innovative programs that effectively contribute to an ex-offender’s rehabilitation after prison.
Houston’s own Becoming One Community (BOC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing programs and services to men and women who have been incarcerated and are pardoned or on parole. BOC’s programs include job search preparation, financial management, housing assistance and physical and mental health support. For example, BOC’s recent workshop, “Working Through the No’s,” helped ex-offenders with resumes and networking and job interview skills. The organization also provides information about the rights of and legal resources for ex-offenders.
Also headquartered in Houston with an office in Dallas, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) works to connect ex-offenders with top business and academic talent through what is described as “MBA-level curriculum” and real-world mentoring relationships. Does it work? The recidivism rate of its participants is less than 10 percent, and an independent study by Baylor University determined that PEP provides a whopping 340 percent ROI as a result of increased child support payments, less need for government assistance and a reduction in incarcerated prisoners. So, you tell us if it works.
Houston Criminal Defense
If you have been charged with a crime and are facing the possibility of incarceration, contact the team at the Houston-based Thiessen Law Firm. The firm’s award-winning criminal defense attorneys, including two-time Super Lawyer awardee Mark Thiessen, will fight for your rights to ensure you are given a fair trial.