Despite evidence that incarceration without robust reentry services leads to higher rates of recidivism, prisoner reentry statistics show the number of individuals in prison each year in the United States continues to rise — even as reentry services remain the same. To make a positive change in the justice system, and these individuals’ lives, we must rethink how we help people reenter society after incarceration.
Approximately 10 million justice-involved individuals will reenter communities from jail or prison each year. For many individuals, the transition can be stressful as they struggle with substance abuse, limited housing and employment options, and mental health issues upon their release from prison. To that end, it’s critical for nonprofits that specialize in prisoner reentry programs to do everything they can to help ensure a seamless – and successful – reentry process.
Here are 11 prisoner reentry statistics your nonprofit can use to better tailor its reentry services.
Incarceration and Recidivism
- Sometimes reentry fails. More than 66% of justice-involved individuals are rearrested within three years of their release – half return to prison. (Source)
- Reentry challenges, such as discrimination in access to housing, biases in fair employment, and disenfranchisement, make it especially difficult for justice-involved individuals to achieve stability and reenter their community successfully. This contributes to the cycle of recidivism, and 75% of individuals re-engage in criminal activity within five years of their release. (Source)
- Nearly 30% of people fail to complete their probation or parole supervision programs successfully. Almost 350,000 of these individuals return to jail or prison each year. (Source)
Incarceration and Employment
- Formerly incarcerated individuals experience unemployment at a rate of over 27% — a rate higher than the rate experienced during the Great Depression – and only 55% of individuals report having any income during the first year following their release. (Source) (Source)
- The median annual earnings for an employed justice-involved individual is $10,090 — nearly $2,500 less than the federal poverty level for an individual. (Source) (Source)
Incarceration and the Family
- In the United States, roughly 7 million children – have at least one parent who is incarcerated. This equates to approximately 1 in every 28 children. (Source)
- Among incarcerated parents, 99% are fathers. Research shows that having one incarcerated parent has far-reaching negative implications on a child’s well-being. Research shows that children with incarcerated parents may be three times as likely to engage in criminal activity than children whose parents are not in jail. (Source) (Source)
Incarceration and Mental Health
- In 2017, the U.S. federal prison system oversaw 187,910 inmates – 7,831 of which had a serious mental illness. These individuals are nearly 10 times more likely to return to jail or prison than those with no serious mental illness. (Source) (Source)
- Justice-involved individuals with mental illness also face higher than average rates of housing insecurity – 20% experience homelessness in the months both preceding and following their incarceration – increasing their risk of criminal activity and subsequent recidivism. (Source)
Incarceration and Women
- About 25% of women released from prison are arrested for a new crime within six months. Over 30% are arrested within a year, and over 68% are arrested within five years of release. (Source)
- Economic and material deprivation often increase the risk of an individual re-offending. In one study that explored factors contributing to recidivism, over 57% of respondents were unemployed before their incarceration, and nearly 60% reported economic problems played a role in their reoffending. (Source)
Reducing recidivism isn’t just the responsibility of the government, nonprofits, or the people incarcerated. It’s a community effort. Whether this is in the form of employment, safe housing, or offering wraparound reentry services, every little bit helps to lower the recidivism rate.
A Greater Need for Reentry Services
For nonprofits, these insights provide a window into the complexity of recidivism – and the importance of prisoner reentry programs. Tailoring your services will help reduce your participants’ likelihood of recidivism. Most importantly, it helps to ensure each person has the best chance at a successful transition back into the community.