When a person is convicted of a crime, they are sentenced to a certain amount of time to repay their debt to society. But what happens after the sentence is over and they repaid their debt to society? Reentry can be difficult – and reintegration even harder.
Fortunately, there are people around the country working to help those people get back on their feet and become productive members of society. Just as important, to help them to become part of the fabric of a community. Here are a few of the great ways Americans are united to help formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society.
1. Vital Signs
Vital Signs is a “one-stop shop for reentry.” Upon release, people live together in a home environment, as a family. They are coached and prepared to restart relationships with their families. They are mentored in how they can get involved in their communities and churches. They are given job skills training, a life coach, food and affordable housing.
2. Alice Marie Johnson
Alice Marie Johnson became the face of criminal justice reform when Kim Kardashian brought her story to the public eye. After serving 21 years of a life-without-parole sentence for a nonviolent drug offense, she received presidential clemency and was freed from prison.
But she never forgot those she met while in prison. She continues to advocate for the formerly convicted at the community and government levels.
3. Van Jones and Mark Holden
These political adversaries were united to support the First Step Act, which took steps to reform oppressive sentencing and expand access to rehabilitation programs which helped people integrate back into their communities.
4. Lisa Creason
When Lisa Creason was 19, she tried to steal money from a Subway sandwich shop in order to feed her newborn daughter. She was sentenced to a year in prison. When she got out of prison, she turned her life around, started a nonviolence nonprofit and became a nursing assistant. She went to school for years to become a registered nurse and passed her tests with flying colors. Then, the state of Illinois told her because she’d committed that crime at age 19 (more than 20 years earlier), she couldn’t get a nursing license.
She was determined to change the law in her home state of Illinois – and succeeded. Now, she’s advocating to have it changed in other states around the country to give everyone a chance to move forward and serve their communities after serving their sentences.
5. Ryan Tillman
As a Black police officer, Ryan Tillman understood both sides of the tension that exists between the Black community and law enforcement. He started Breaking Barriers United to build relationships, create training programs and mentor community members to serve with love, empathy and respect. Tillman’s #ItsNeeded Podcast hosts conversations between law enforcement and the community.
We can’t unite our communities if we don’t work to reintegrate the formerly incarcerated back into them. These five organizations help give people a well-deserved second chance, prevent violence and increase understanding.