As a felon being released from New Jersey State Prison it is imperative to understand how every action that I take from hence forth will determine whether or not I take the path most traveled by released prisoners; this path can be simplified into a staggering statistic: “Thirty percent of returning prisoners are rearrested in the first 6 months of reentry, 44% are rearrested within 1 year of release, and 67.5% are rearrested within 3 years” (Luther et al, 2011, pg. 476). In this essay I will evaluate the problems that I will face, how I will attempt to remedy them, and the overall quality of life that I should expect in the first year following my release.
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Many prisoners who are released from prison have the advantage of having a family to return to that will help them set a proper foundation. My family will more than likely not be willing to help me; they are a family who holds a grim view on criminals and have preached high moral and ethical standards since the day I was born. Although I will attempt to contact them, I know that my efforts will more than likely be in vain.
In addition to attempting to reestablish communication with my family I will also be searching for a job to support myself. Finding a job in today’s economy is difficult for any individual, however because I am a convicted felon it is nearly impossible. Nearly every application for any type of job contains the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Harry J. Holzer, Steven Raphael, and Michael A. Stoll conducted research to determine what the effects of answering, “yes” to that very question would be to individuals with criminal records. Their research found that only 40% of the employers that they surveyed would realistically consider hiring an ex-felon (Holzer, Raphael, and Stoll, 2003, pg. 40). This survey exemplifies the difficulties I will have in getting hired. With the persistence I have I know I will be able to obtain at least a part time job that pays minimum wage, $8.25. However, minimum wage is simply not enough to sustain the lifestyle that I was accustomed to before I went to prison. Minimum wage alone cannot pay for basic expenses including housing, medical care, food, and other necessities. I would likely be forced to move to an area that offers low cost housing, and unfortunately those areas usually have very high crime rates.
It is obvious that in my first month after my release I will struggle creating the foundation that every ex-criminal desperately requires. My inability to turn to friends and family combined with the difficulty of finding a job that is adequate to support a basic lifestyle all lead me down the path most traveled. The urge to associate myself with bad people capable of finding me jobs to do illegally will be relentless. However, I cannot settle for a fate that will put me back in prison, therefore I must use the myriad number of resources available for ex-criminals.
In New Jersey the Office of Transitional Services (O.T.S.) offers a variety of resources that will help me lessen the difficulty of a successful reintegration. Perhaps one of the most important programs that the O.T.S provides is the Providing Re-Entry Public Assistance Resource Education (P.R.E.P.A.R.E.), which will assist me in applying for social security and Medicaid. These services will take some of the financial burden off of me and enable me to continue working low-paying jobs with less stress. In addition, I will take part in O.T.S’s Successful Transition and Reentry Series (S.T.A.R.S). S.T.A.R.S will allow me to educate myself for 12 weeks on the barriers that I will face, especially in...