These facts do not even address the personal bias that may exist among employers who are more likely to hire welfare recipients than ex-offenders (Western, 2003).
The problems ex-offenders face do not stop with employment. Male ex-offenders unable to hold steady or appealing jobs are often less appealing to potential partners as they are perceived as unable to "Contribute economically" and many carry a stigma associated with a past conviction (Western, 54).
All of these facts support the need for better rehabilitation programs to prevent increased recidivism among ex-offenders (Western, 2003). May have likened parole to law enforcement processes than social work, suggesting that parole officers are more surveillance oriented than supportive in their roles toward ex-offenders (Western, 2003).
Many groups that do support the needs of ex-offenders including nonprofit agencies often lack the resources necessary to help ex-offenders (Western, 2003).
Significance of the Study
Every year more than 600,000 people are released from prison, and this number continually grows (Petersilia, 2005). Studies suggest that up to 93% of inmates are released at some point in time (Petersilia, 2005). The needs of ex-offenders continue to grow as fewer and fewer rehabilitation programs exist to house and enable ex-offenders to gain meaningful employment. Reentry programs are vital to the success of ex-offenders and may substantially impact rates of recidivism among ex-offenders (Petersilia, 2005).
The more effort that communities turn toward rehabilitation programs, the more likely they are to build strong communities where every member of the community has an opportunity to give back and support one another. Higher crime is often evidenced in those communities where few resources and social support networks are available to first time and repeat offenders (Etters, 2002). For this reason alone it is vital that communities such as this one explore the potential benefits they will gain from establishing an ex-offenders program that helps retrain offenders to become giving members of the community. This program will add to a growing body of research suggesting that rehabilitation, employment, training and social support programs are a key but often overlooked avenue for reform for incarcerates.
Preliminary Literature Review
The literature review will focus on the current body of research available the explores rehabilitation, training, employment and social support programs for ex-offenders. It will also briefly examine the history of such programs, any potential adverse effects on communities such programs may bring, and explore multiple successful rehabilitative programs so that the researcher may discover what elements are necessary to create a successful rehabilitation program in this community.
There are many reasons communities need to take advantage of programs that work toward reforming ex-offenders. One primary reason such programs are implicated is the wide range of problems offenders have, some of which land them in prison to begin with. Most ex-offenders released from prison have some "social and medical problems (Petersilia, 66). Nearly three quarters of all inmates suffer from drug or alcohol abuse and almost 1/3 have mental health issues (Petersilia, 2005). Few inmates upon release have the skills or literacy necessary to gain meaningful employment, and even fewer have a GED or high school diploma (Petersilia, 2005). Other studies confirm that only 25% of prisoners participate in employment training programs while incarcerated (Petersilia, 2005).
While most non-offenders have reasonable access to social support networks or medical care facilities that can help them address these issues, most ex-offenders do not have access to social or medical care. In fact, many offenders receive free and comprehensive medical care while in prison, only to find they have limited access to health care resources once released from prison (Petersilia, 2005). Lack of access to primary medical care can increase the likelihood that ex-offenders will face substance abuse and other medical problems in the near future, increasing rates of recidivism and associated programs.
Many ex-offenders also have a difficult time finding gainful employment. This is due to multiple factors including lack of education (many offenders are high school dropouts), poor skills training, criminal history, lack of knowledge regarding current employment trends and lack of adequate support to help prisoners make the transition from prison life to employment (Petersilia, 2005; Etters, 2002; Western, 2000).
Most researchers have found that finding meaningful employment is perhaps the single most important factor related to rehabilitation (Petersilia, 2005). Finding gainful employment allows ex-offenders the opportunities necessary to strengthen "their self-esteem, social connectedness" and offers them the skills necessary to take care of themselves, their families and remain productive members of society (Petersilia, 2005). Ex-offenders also face much bias, as many employers will not hire ex-offenders for certain jobs. The legal system prevents many ex-offenders from taking jobs in certain fields including education, health care and childcare, and unfortunately these are among the fastest growing fields now available (Petersilia, 2005). Recent surveys suggested that 65% of employers "would not knowingly hire an ex-offender" regardless of the type of crime committed (Petersilia, 2005). High rates of unemployment after release can contribute to recidivism for many ex-offenders.
Lastly ex-offenders are more likely to face social stigma, whether from potential employers, potential housemates or even potential partners or family members (Petersilia, 2005; Western, 2000). It is common for ex-offenders to face self-esteem issues and related mental problems including excessive anxiety and depression as they attempt to readjust in a society that appears much changed from when they left it, and one that appears unwelcoming and disinterested at best (Lattimore & Witte, 1985). Despite genuine expressed interest in reform and becoming active members of the community, many ex-offenders find with lack of adequate social support networks they are unable to face the challenges presented to them when they re-enter the world at large (Lattimore & Witte, 1985).
Programs In Other Countries
Despite the lack of rehabilitation or support programs in the United States, many foreign countries have successfully implemented rehabilitation or support programs that help ex-offenders re-enter their communities. Because these programs are so commonplace, may ex-offenders find within a matter of years they are enjoying ordinary lives with good jobs and routine daily functions.
Most other countries provide ex-offenders with rehabilitation programs. England for example offers adult criminal offenders the opportunity to completely put their crime in the past after a certain number of years (Petersilia, 2005). Other companies have programs designed to ensure that ex-offenders are not impeded for a lifetime if they wish to re-integrate with society (Petersilia, 2005).
Other countries including in Israel and the Middle East even support reform programs to help ex-offenders re-enter the workforce (Geiger & Toch, 1991). Some would suggest that the U.S. model these programs to create successful reform and support programs for the rapidly growing number of inmates in this country.
Opinions On Programs To Aid Ex-Offenders
Unfortunately much of the early work conducted on rehabilitation programs among ex-offenders is pessimistic in nature. Despite much evidence today that such programs can succeed, some pessimistic researchers in the past have concluded that the effectiveness of various programs suggest "that nothing works when it comes to rehabilitation" (Lattimore & Witte, 1).
Fortunately, subsequent evaluations prove that these conclusions are often premature. There is significant literature that supports the use of rehabilitation for both offenders and ex-offenders. Lattimore & Witte (1985) show that much of the research that is non-supportive of rehabilitation is often based on "weak interventions" including work release programs placing incumbents in lower level jobs for short periods of time (46). Many programs evaluated that fail also do not provide training to prepare ex-offenders for the modern labor market, thus ex-offenders leave without the skills they need to succeed in any reasonable arena (Lattimore & Witte, 1985).
The best programs according to some include efforts that involve "the coordinated efforts of social scientists, employment professionals, and correctional officials" to engage and reform ex-offenders for life (Lattimore & Witte, 46). Collaborative programs such as this are more likely to result in creation of ongoing and strong support networks for criminal offenders.
Benefits Of Rehabilitation
There are in fact multiple benefits cited in the literature for employment and rehabilitation programs for offenders and ex-offenders. Successful programs in prison systems according to Lattimore & Witte (1985) serve many purposes including lowering prison costs, engaging prison managers, attracting personnel well suited for the prison environment and improving the ex-offenders behavior after release into the world.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) currently utilizes a rehabilitation program under the direction of Director Reginald Wilkinson. This program reports multiple benefits including allowing ex-offenders the opportunity to interview for and secure decent jobs, enabling skills training for an "eager pool of candidates" and helping ex-offenders become "self-supporting tax payers" so they learn how to contribute to their community (Mayers, Unwin & Wilt, 1999). The program also helps boost self-confidence and self-esteem among former inmates.
These benefits and others are reported among similar programs. Ex-offenders who participate in rehabilitation programs are more likely to become self-sufficient, supportive members of their communities (Fischer, Geiger & Toch, 1191; Western, 2003; Petersilia, 2005). They are more…