How to Help Convicted Felons

by Gail Sessoms
Convicted felons need help transitioning from prison to civilian life.

Communities and individuals across the country are trying to find ways to help convicted felons through reentry initiatives and programs that work to decrease recidivism. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that, in 2007, 1,180,469 former inmates were at risk of being returned to prison. According to the BJS, more than 67 percent of released inmates were returned to prison in 1994. These rates impact communities and families. Programs that assist convicted felons, either while they are in prison or after their release, focus on employment, mental and physical health care, and substance abuse treatment.

Make a list of the services convicted felons need, including rehabilitation services while in prison, transitional housing, employment assistance, education and job training, counseling, mentoring, substance abuse treatment and assistance with family connections.

Learn about the prisons and correctional facilities in your state. Find out which types of rehabilitation and pre-release services are provided to convicted felons while they are in prison. Ask about education and training, GED programs, counseling and other services.

Study local reentry programs and identify the challenges faced by convicted felons in your community. Determine which services exist in the community to help convicted felons and which are missing.

Determine how you will help. Start a program at a church or community organization that addresses a previously missing area. Start a support group for ex-felons. Contact local businesses to start a reentry program or volunteer with a prison program. Make a donation to support an existing program. Create a list of the resources in your community for recent parolees to create an information and referral resource.

Advocate for services for convicted felons. Speak in your community about the need to help convicted felons. Explain how their success impacts their families and the community. Write to your elected officials about the need to fund new programs.

About the Author

Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.

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