Groups That Help Inmates After Prison

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Of 405,000 prisoners released in 2005 and tracked for five years, the U.S. Bureau of Justice discovered that 77 percent, or roughly three out of four inmates released, committed another crime within five years after their release. And, in the first year alone, more than half of those released returned to jail for another criminal act. Recidivism -- a relapse or return to criminal behavior -- is the biggest challenge that criminals and society face when prisoners are released. Groups that help former inmates after a run-in with the law can reduce these numbers and help the newly released find a meaningful place within society.

1 Residential Re-entry Centers

Formerly called halfway houses, community residential re-entry centers are a place where some former inmates can go to prepare for re-entering society and adjust to life outside the cell. Under the U.S. Bureau of Prisons control, but operated by independent contractors, these centers give residents the opportunity to take part in job training and or get help with substance abuse. While living in one of these centers, residents must adhere to the center's work requirements, work and curfews. Sex offenders and violent criminals, who represent a significant threat to society, cannot be sent to these re-entry centers.

2 College and Community Fellowship

Studies conducted by the College and Community Fellowship show that when former female prisoners get a higher education, it improves their chances of becoming contributing members of society. Since its inception, fewer than 2 percent of those who participate in a higher education program return to a life of a crime. The organization supports women by helping them obtain post-secondary and graduate degrees to improve their lives, increase their opportunities for income, and develop long-term social and financial stability.

3 The Osborne Association

Established by Thomas Mott Osborne over 80 years ago in New York state, the Osborne Association helps over 8,000 people a year by offering them education, treatment and vocational services to reintegrate into community life after prison. The organization's goal focuses on helping formerly incarcerated men and woman reconnect with their families, develop healthy lifestyles, and achieve economic stability and independence. Called the "pioneer and prophet of prisoner reform," Osborne spent a week in prison in 1912 in Auburn, New York, the town where he also served as mayor. As a reformist warden of Sing-Sing prison after that, he also established the Mutual Welfare League and the National Society of Penal Information.

4 Second Chance Act

Signed into law in April of 2008, the Second Chance Act provides money and assistance to state and local governments and organizations to improve the outcome of former convicts returning to society. Managed and underwritten by the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice, Second Chance awards funds to prevent recidivism in people returning from jails, prisons and juvenile detention facilities. Some of the programs that the Act funds include mentoring programs, transitional service programs and career-training programs that begin in prison before release, along with substance abuse treatment programs and other support services.

As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.