Many justice-involved individuals are also in need of educational services after incarceration. Approximately 35% of people in prison do not have their high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma, compared to 18% of the general population (Wolf Harlow, C., PhD. 2003). Moreover, one in ten young males who do not finish high school end up in adult jail or juvenile detention, compared to one in 35 high school graduates (Dillon, S. 2009). These individuals, often victims of a failing public education system, fall into a “school to prison pipeline” that severely limits their future opportunities and heightens their susceptibility to recidivate.
Formerly incarcerated jobseekers face challenges when attempting to enter the workforce, too. In addition to addressing competing life needs such as overcoming substance use, homelessness and health issues, they must simultaneously build important skills in a rapidly changing job market. Moreover, there are well-documented biases against hiring within this population. One study conducted in New York City found that a criminal record reduced the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50% (Pager, Western & Bonikowski, 2009). In fact, nearly all of our clients have little or no income, and urgently need assistance to obtain living wage employment. 64% of new clients that enrolled in The Fortune Society in 2015 had less than $1,000 of income per month at intake, with 75% of those clients having no income whatsoever.
Seeking safety, justice-involved individuals often immediately seek to reconnect with their families upon release. Unfortunately, incarceration can separate individuals from their loved ones for long periods of time. Many are placed in jails and prisons that are located far from their homes, discouraging visitation and communication with their families, and causing children to grow up without the emotional support of their mothers and fathers. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 53% of incarcerated individuals in 2007 were parents of children under age 18. Finding solutions to these disconnects among families is a crucial component of criminal justice reform. Bonds help formerly incarcerated individuals stabilize their lives, serving as vital support systems during their reentry process.
Finding affordable housing is another obstacle that formerly incarcerated people must overcome. Given their poor access to education and employment, it is no surprise that homelessness is 7.5 to 11.3 times more prevalent for formerly incarcerated people than it is for the general public (Greenberg & Rosenheck 2008). These figures are likely much higher in New York City, where the demand for affordable housing far outstrips its availability. The issue is compounded by policies implemented by the New York City Housing Authority, which can bar people with criminal histories from entering public housing units regardless of the nature of their crimes.