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Prisoner re-entry in society: an American perspective

Prisoner re-entry in society: an American perspective

The US has the highest imprisonment rate in the world. This rate is breathtakingly high in comparison to other countries. Studies suggest the United States is not equipped to hold over two million prisoners in the coming years, and many of these prisoners will eventually be released back into the society. Paige Paulson stated, "individuals are released from prison with varying degrees of preparation," these prisoners are not welcomed back into the community. The common practice does not allow these prisoners to lead a normal public life.

 To accommodate those prisoners with a successful re-entry, Social Work Department initiated various research and rehabilitation programmes. According to Cheryl Lero Jhonson and Franchise T. Coolen, in the United States prisoner re-entry has been "discovered" and has become a central policy only in the past decade. There are a large number of inmate programmes launched during the past few years. However, not all of them have expected effectiveness. Another group of people named Richard P. Seiter and Karen R. Kadela, in their work titled Prisoner Re-entry: What Works What Does not and What is Promising  stated that it is imperative to identify inmate re-entry programmes that work for them. They suggested some scientific methods to assess the effectiveness of the prisoner re-entry programme. Also, up to half of the prison population suffers from mental illness; Human Service professionals should launch a programme in prison to stop recidivism. The programme aims to treat these mentally sick prisoners to have a bright everyday life when they re-enter society. The programme's nickname should be "Bye-Bye Prison."  This type of programme will allow the human service and social work professionals to work with the inmates in jail. As well,  the programme will offer to counsel freshly released inmates. It also aims to  provide psychological education to those in need and create a facility to exercise mock employment inside the jail to be used to working life environments. Additionally, the programme  encourages inmates to earn a degree inside the prison through distance learning. In the United States, very few prisons provide group counseling to prisoners. However, counseling is a proven method of treatment for mentally sick prisoners.

Experts suggest that Human Service professionals and Social workers should launch unstructured counseling groups where the participants will have the opportunity to discuss their feelings and emotions. They should put no more than five prisoners in a room and share their daily life experiences in prison. Through discussion, these officials should identify the mental crisis prisoner may suffer and endeavour to help them overcome their illness through the counseling tools.  With the purpose set, they should try to have a different understanding of their mental condition. The social worker should use metaphors, anecdotes, and stories to provide counseling to an inmate. Also, human service workers typically encounter resistance, so they must have special precautions to respond to this resistance effectively.

The participants of these counseling groups will be offer psychological and well-being education. Through an extensive curriculum, the human service professionals will make a practical syllabus for their psychological education. When completed, the prisoners will be able to distinguish between right and wrong. The Human Service Professional and Social Workers should aim to educate them with the fullest sense. Also, successful completion will make the prisoner confident and encouraged them to lead a lawful life. Besides psychological education, the syllabus will include a moral education programme, and the participants will be arranged with different categories based on their ethnic group, age, and prior records. This part will enhance their personality development and moral judgment. The programme will make them realise their life is beautiful, and they could be a resource for the nation. 

It is significantly vital to provide prisoners with the opportunities to earn skills that will help them in their ability to readjust in society after they are released. The Federal Bureau of Prison has taken this initiative to provide inmates with skill through mock employment inside the prison. Their purpose is to make prisoners better qualified to find a job. There is already a vocational programme that teaches job skills in jail. In January 2002, about 7,000 inmates joined the programme in about 160 job fairs. Human Service professionals and Social workers should show their participants how important it is to engage in this programme. When these inmates have the opportunities to earn their living after being released, they will not have this tendency to commit a crime again. With the combination of education, experience, and skill, they will have an excellent resume to fight in the job market when they are outside of the world.

Although the number of prisoners coming home from the jail is high, there are realities to keep in mind as the state considers the ramification for its extraordinary re-entry phenomenon. A good re-entry could make a prisoner not commit a crime again. Recidivism comes with a high price tag. It is the job of human service professionals and social workers to show the correct path to all these inmates. Acknowledge them, and teach them skills by implementing the essential human service tool and techniques which can help them in the outside world.


Sanjeda  Begum, Student of Human Service, New York City College of Technology, City University of New York.

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