Part one of our reentry series will focus on recidivism and reentry. Reentry is the process of ending a period of incarceration, leaving jail or prison, and returning to society. Reentry programs’ primary efforts are to assist and remove incarcerated individuals’ barriers to transition to their community successfully. They also help released individuals seek employment, attain stable housing, support their children and their families and contribute to their community. Research shows women returning home have a significantly higher need for services than men and require additional resources and support to aid in their rehabilitation. Services such as housing, financial support, addressing substance use, trauma-informed interventions, and family reunification. 

Recidivism is defined as a person’s relapse into criminal behavior. It is measured by criminal acts that resulted in rearrest, reconviction, or return to prison with or without a new sentence during a three-year period following the prisoner’s release. Approximately one-quarter of women released from prison fail within six months and are arrested for a new crime. The Illinois Department of Corrections Female Inmate Population Data reports the three-year recidivism rate for 2017 exits was 22.4% at the end of the 2020 cycle. 

Therefore, women face distinctive challenges, requiring specific approaches—lack of employment and continuing involvement with the system present to be the biggest challenges for women. Studies have shown biases and stereotypes toward women candidates. They tend to work fewer hours and are paid less money than their male counterparts. In like manner, they are often employed in nonpermanent, low-level, or entry-level occupations, leaving little room for advancement. Their continuing involvement with the system is yet another challenge women experience. Technical violations mean you have failed to meet certain conditions of probation. These violations often lead to unnecessary reincarceration. These are only a few of the obstacles women deal with after release, making it challenging to transition back to their communities successfully. 

So what can be done? Over the years, criminal justice-involved people and advocates have been pushing for reentry reform. Organizations and community leaders have recommended community-based sentencing instead of incarceration. Community-based sentencing is a healthier alternative and creates a supportive environment where individuals can heal and be held accountable for the consequences of their convictions. Alternatives to imprisonment are house arrest and halfway houses. Also, this alternative properly addresses substance use and mental health. Consequently, these programs have already been shown to reduce recidivism and increase family preservation.