Upon graduation from a Sex Offender Treatment Group, a registrant made the comment that “some of the guys in the group will never graduate, they’re always afraid they’ll break some registry law, they seldom leave their homes or motel rooms. Most of them can’t find jobs, their PO’s “safety Plan” is for them to do their grocery shopping at 4AM. Every day for them is like “Ground Hog Day”, exactly the same, it never changes. What kind of life is that? Shouldn’t someone be doing more to help these guys reintegrate, to live somewhat normal lives?”
Registrants with supportive family and friends are fortunate, once out of prison, their chances of finding housing, procuring employment, building future relationships and re-integrating back into a society that as we all know, can be less than welcoming, may not be easy, but for them, it’s possible. They can succeed.
Those registrants with minimal or no support system may indeed find themselves stuck, unable to move forward with their lives. They are paralyzed with fear of the registry, have no one to inform them of court issues that affect them. They have no one to encourage, support or help motivate them. Their day to day existence becomes just that, mere existence. The fact that they are “surviving” doesn’t necessarily mean they are” living”. Life is more than just being alive. Something needs to be done.
Shouldn’t some entity bear the responsibility of helping re-integrate registrants back into an unhospitable society, a society where we know many will view them as the enemy because of the label they’ve been given? Shouldn’t the Criminal Justice System, the Bureau of Prisons, the Dept. of Justice, someone, be doing something more? Too many “good people” are being released back into a society that has been lied to by the Criminal Justice system and the media, told that these people are to be feared. How are they supposed to re-integrate?
Prisons offer a bit of general re-integration assistance prior to release, but it’s not much, and it’s certainly not geared toward those who will be released with a label around their necks.
Some fortunate ex-offenders will have homes to return to, some will find a cheap motel or low-cost room, while still others will be homeless. They may receive a once a week Sex Offender Treatment Group and a P.O. who encourages them to go to a local job training center where they have computer access to try to find employment. (Of course, no job training is included.) But none of this is “re-integration focused”.
After being locked up for 5-10 years, a scarlet letter hung around your neck when you walk out the prison gates and now, you’re sent out into the cold, cold world. How well you manage to blend back into society becomes your problem.
To be fair, while in prison, offenders are offered some educational classes such as electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning, etc. There are some basic courses on how to manage your return to society. However, the problems for registrants are unique. They are returning to a society that will stigmatize them, a society that would rather they remain locked up. They have been labeled. Finding a career in any of the job skills such as those provided by the prison, jobs where you are required to enter customer’s homes, well, for registrants, that may not work. Prisons haven’t taken into account the “real world job liability” that registrants face when offering prison career classes. (How many registrants have prison “certificates” for classes they took, certificates that are worthless to them on the “outside” because of their registrant status?)
The fact is, more needs to be done. In order for all registrants to have a chance at fully re-integrating back into society, there needs to be more programs to assist them. Their hurdles out in the world are far greater than others. The obstacles they face in finding housing and jobs is much different, more challenging, than others released from prison. Their chances at finding and building relationships more tenuous.
All registrants should have the opportunity to move forward with their lives. In order for that to happen, there needs to be a better system of re-integration for registrants.