Justice Research and Development

Life After Incarceration

It is a pitiable but factual statistical situation that 77% of persons who are released from prison are rearrested and imprisoned within 5 years of their release, this sad situation pushed Dr Carrie Petus Davis, who is an associate professor and the Founding Director of the Institute for Justice Research and Development at the College of Social Works in Florida State University. 

She told the story of her encounter with a taxi driver who was formerly a parole officer, this taxi driver, grievously lamented the situation of the justice system and had given up hope due to a particular situation he was privy to; the last parolee he was supervising, the individual, an addict who was being supervised had been a frequent guest at the prison facility for the most of his life, however after his last release, he deliberately and belligerently fought to stay clean, and was being successful but this act was unrecognized and cut short, the individual was sent back to prison to complete the remaining ten years of his sentence, because he couldn’t afford to pay the supervision fee and take care of his family at the same time. 

It is the stories like this that fuels the desire and the passion of Dr. Petus-Davis and her team to research into the barriers ex-offenders face and what are the ways they may best be overcome. She tries to achieve this by following over 1,800 prisoners from different states. The learned Dr. opines that recidivism has more to do with a system failure than a failure of the individual. As a result together with her team and her data from other prisoners, she has developed what is termed the Five Key Model for Re-entry, which places emphasis on the strengths and the psychological wellbeing of individuals who had been locked up at one point in time or the other, this emphasis helps to keep them out of criminal activities and conversely helps them make positive and beneficial contributions to the society. The five key model includes:

  • Developing healthy thinking patterns
  • Searching for meaningful jobs
  • Constructing positive coping strategies
  • Engendering beneficial social activities and 
  • Fostering tight and positive interpersonal relationships 

The plan is to create two sets of prisoners, with some being trained on these 5 key approaches while the rest are allowed to utilize the existing services offered by the community and the corrections agencies. Both teams will be evaluated after 15 months. So far so good, the team has produced their initial report on their study, and they plan to publish their report in real time, this they feel would ensure a speedier implementation of the report, even though it usually takes about 17 years for policy to be formulated and implemented from such research, which is a very long time considering the dangers of recidivism being faced today. 

The report which was released disclosed some of the barriers facing the offender both internal and external, with the internal barriers being the trauma they experience, their experiences with jobs, their issues with relationships, mental health and substance abuse. While the external barriers include their lack of; transportation, telephone services, basic access to the internet and housing among others. The Dr. has stated that in her opinion that one of the major reasons inhibiting successful reentry of these offenders is the fact that the community is playing a reduced role to help with reentry, when compared to the role the corrections agency are playing, and this may not be really effective because offenders are less likely to be as free with the persons who were directly responsible for their confinement and punishment as they would be with a community that would act as a home for them.

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