(TRENTON) – For many incarcerated people, working and waiting for their eventual release from prison is only half the battle.
Once they are released from prison, many will face barriers in finding work, housing, healthcare, transportation, mental health services, addiction treatment or reuniting with family.
“Reentering society isn’t as simple as walking out the prison doors,” said Assemblywoman Shanique Speight (D-Essex), prime sponsor of new legislation to raise awareness for challenges of reentry. “Some may leave incarceration without a place to sleep that night. They may be free, but without support or resources, they might feel like they’re still behind bars.”
Assemblywoman Speight recently introduced legislation (AJR-195) to designate the last week in April of each year as “Reentry Week” to raise awareness for the challenges faced by formerly incarcerated individuals reentering their communities. State agencies and local groups would be encouraged to observe Reentry Week and support efforts to remove barriers that prevent those formerly incarcerated from pursuing healthy and productive lives, including the work of the New Jersey Reentry Services Commission and the Commission on Reentry Services for Women.
“As thousands of formerly incarcerated individuals reenter their communities, it’s so important that they have the support they need to build a brighter future,” said Speight. “About 31 percent of formerly incarcerated people in New Jersey end up back in prison. Though this number is far lower than the federal recidivism rate of about 67 percent, it still means nearly one in three people will return to incarceration. We must take a long, hard look at why this is happening, and what we can do to help those formerly incarcerated reenter society in a safe and healthy way.”
The legislation now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.