Putting a Face on Transformation

Published mar. 08, 2018

What does it take to rebuild one’s life after prison? Research suggests that education is critical to successful reentry. Education programs are even more effective when they are seamlessly connected to job training that begins in prison or jail and continues through the reentry process. With support from the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education’s Improved Reentry Education (IRE) project, nine organizations are developing proof points for these types of interventions.

JFF provides training, resources, and support to the grantees in this initiative. In our Voices of Reentry series, we document the impact that these reentry interventions have on people trying to rebuild their lives through the experiences of the participants themselves.

Through these programs, participants who have cycled in and out of incarceration for most of their adult lives realize that it’s never too late for a change. They take a chance to plan for their future and think long term instead of making decisions for the day. When participants invest their time and talents in these programs, they find helping hands from staff and peers that create opportunities for change. The intensity of program design and resources enables the program staff to improve their clients’ education and skills and build trust with their participants, so they can rebuild their lives. And even though there can be setbacks on the journey, the men and women in these programs are seeing an opportunity of a lifetime.

The voices of program participants reveal what makes these programs effective:

  • Relationships between corrections facilities and reentry programs; staff and participants; and the reentry program provider and community-based support services
  • Staff to support transitions from corrections into community-based reentry programs
  • High-quality education and training aligned with the standards of high-demand occupations
  • Employer support for program development and commitment to hiring participants
  • Partnerships with organizations providing a range of supports, including legal services, mental health counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, housing assistance, and family support services

Intensive education and training—both behind prison walls and in the community—requires a long-term commitment and investment to develop and sustain. But as the participants share in their profiles, there is a significant return on investment. For these men and women, the investment pays off in reduced recidivism. It also pays off in fully transformed lives.

The Voices of Reentry series elevates the people above the statistics of reentry outcomes. We hope that it will also reduce the stigma. These men and women are indeed more than their worst moment. We should base reentry policies and practices not on their past but on their power to rebuild their lives.