Jobs are NOT the solution (Reentry Assessment)
Ex-offender reentry is a vital part of public safety. Over 95% of individuals that are incarcerated will be returning to society. Since that is the case, society must make provisions for that. Many organizations feel that job placement is the answer. They spend the bulk of their resources and time on job development, job readiness and job placement. When they give their statistics, the most important one is the number of participants that are employed. That is the wrong approach.
People that commit crimes generally received “home training” and they know right from wrong. So that is not the issue. Although they have received “home training”, something in them made them feel it was okay to go against what they had been taught. What would make a person go against their morals and ideals that were instilled in them from an early age- in most cases? That should be our focus.
Generally, they commit crimes because of a sense of entitlement. Entitlement makes it seem reasonable to use force to take someone else’s possessions, or to use deception to acquire goods or services. They feel the world owes them something.
People with this mentality should not be given jobs or assistance with job placement simply because they have a felony conviction. There is a price that needs to be paid. There must be some form of sacrifice to justify the assistance they receive. Life Skills, communication, anger management, etiquette, diction and other classes should be part of a comprehensive reentry plan. Job placement should only be an option AFTER the client has successful completed the designated programs. This instills a sense of value and responsibility in an individual that has usually shunned those ideals for many years.
Scholars have different opinions as to why people commit crime and continue to go to prison. Some say it is because there was no father figure in the home. Others attribute it to a lack of home training. While others say these actions stem from a flaw in a person’s character. Although these factors may play a role in the equation, those factors only play a limited role. The major factor is the decision making process of the individual.
Many times when an ex-offender is making a plea for equality, they will use the phrase, “I made a mistake”. I take exception to that because that removes the responsibility from the individual and places it on circumstance. Mistakes generally are beyond our control and we tend to learn from them and correct that behavior. But if a person continues the same or similar behavior, that is no longer a mistake. This person makes bad decisions. After that realization, he can now be trained on how to make better decisions.
When mistakes are made, consequences are never considered. When decisions are made, consequences are considered. So if an ex-offender decides to become a productive citizen, he can now be equipped with good decision making tools and methods to break the cycle of making bad decisions, thus changing his outlook on life. He can now develop a sense of self-worth and purpose.
Reentry programs MUST give their clients hope. That hope begins with a self assessment and a realization that “my circumstances are my fault”. No one else is to blame. After responsibility has been accepted, the next step is the building of a foundation that takes into account that individual’s past and present environments and moral instruction. This is only the beginning. This individual is NOT ready to enter into the workforce.
A common misconception is that a job will solve a criminal’s problems and make him end his life of crime. That notion is incorrect because most jobs will not pay what the individual was making in his illegal endeavors. So why would that be incentive enough to give up the past life?
We don’t want the job for the money. Again, more money can be made illegally. But that money comes with risks and it is not guaranteed. The job gives me stability and consistency. Now I can plan and prepare a budget and not risk my life for money. The job gives me a sense of responsibility because now I will be able to meet my obligations. I now value the money that I make because I earned it honestly.
To get a person to this realization takes time. This is not something that will be embraced after a job readiness session. Coping mechanisms need to be taught because $500 a week only can go so far. How does the individual deal with the dreams of the past- when money was not an issue because there was plenty of it around? How does the individual deal with not being able to spend with no regard for the bills that need to be paid. Now he has to budget. A job does not answer those issues.
Conflict in the criminal world is seldom resolved with kind, civilized words. How does this individual handle being chastised by his supervisor? Where did he learn how to communicate without raising his voice or using profanity? Putting this individual to work only sets him up to fail.