Reentry Month Celebrates a Second Chance
Each year, more than 600,000 individuals return to society after serving time in federal and state prisons, and another 11 million individuals cycle through local jails. Nearly a quarter of all Americans has had some encounter with the criminal justice system—many for relatively minor, non-violent offenses, sometimes from decades in the past.
Whether an arrest occurred recently or long ago, individuals with criminal records face complex obstacles to successful reentry. The long-term impact of a criminal record may prevent many motivated justice-involved people from obtaining employment, housing, higher education, and credit. Ultimately, these barriers can contribute to a cycle of incarceration that makes it difficult for even the most well-intentioned individuals to stay on the right path and stay out of the criminal justice system.
President Biden has issued a national proclamation designating April as Second Chance Month. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has likewise issued a statewide proclamation designating April as Second Chance Month. Throughout the month, state, local and national reentry advocates will work to raise awareness of the consequences of a criminal conviction and provide second-chance opportunities for people who have completed their sentences to become contributing citizens.
The NEW Reentry Council will support Second Chance Month with reentry week activities the week of April 24. These events are designed to raise awareness of the challenges of returning to the community after incarceration, provide support to those who have been justice involved and encourage others to get involved in reentry initiatives. An April 27 virtual job fair will provide local job opportunities to those who have been justice involved. On April 29, the NEW Reentry Council will host A Night of Hope in celebration of those who have made successful reentry and those who are transitioning back into their local communities. Registration is still open for the virtual event.
Awareness of reentry will help individuals live up to their potential after paying their debt to society.
Ways to help those reentering society:
Advocate for local, state and federal policies which support reentry efforts
Offer second chances to job applicants with unfavorable records
Support or become a member of your local Reentry Council
Continue to learn about reentry issues and the U.S. justice system
Donate to a nonprofit to support reentry programs
Actively work with an individual on a life plan
Be realistic with their transition
Realize everything will not go perfect
Have open lines of communication
Encourage individuals to keep going
Kelley Traynham is a writer in the North Carolina Community Action Association’s Communications Fellows Program. NCCAA Communications Fellows are students or recent graduates pursuing a career in communications, graphic design, IT, public policy or a related field. They receive a stipend for their participation in the program. For more information on the NCCAA Communications Fellows Program, please contact Yvette Ruffin (email@example.com), director of the NCCAA Communications Fellows Program.