We live in a nation created by the desire for independence. Every 4th of July we celebrate it. But that longing for independence is also something that happens at an individual level. We see it every day in every one of the participants we work with.
It’s a critical part of what we do at Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota. Our mission is to eliminate barriers to work and independence.
One important way we achieve our mission is through our ReEntry Program, who work with participants who are trying to regain their independence after a period of incarceration. Our ReEntry team consists of eight people, led by Christen Munn. The work they do and the success they’ve had deserves recognition.
Trying to restart your life after being incarcerated is an enormous challenge. It’s difficult to find a place to live and even harder to find a good job. “Rejection is pretty constant,” Christen explains.
Those difficulties help to explain why so many people who have spent time incarcerated frequently end up returning to prison. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2005 to 2010 about two-thirds (67.8%) of released state prisoners were arrested for a new crime within three years, and three-quarters (76.6%) were arrested within five years.
By comparison, participants who have gone through our ReEntry program have a much lower rate of recidivism. We’ve accomplished this by giving participants the skills and support they need to lead productive, independent lives.
The stories of the participants they work with are inspirational. Jennifer is a great example. After making some mistakes that led to her being incarcerated, she joined our ReEntry program and learned the skills she needed to not only build a successful career for herself, but to become a better parent as well. To hear her say “I never imagined my life could be this great,” might be the best evidence we have of how effective our ReEntry program has been.
It takes a coordinated effort from many people to achieve this success. Thank you for the support you’ve given us as we work to help our participants overcome the barriers they face.