Florida State University Foundation

Disrupting the Cycle of Incarceration in the United States

Offender re-entry

Achieving reentry reform with technology, personal storytelling, and mass media to reduce stigma, change policy, unlock community-level opportunities, and prepare formerly incarcerated individuals for success.

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Biased public policies and incarceration practices in the US tear apart generations of families and uniquely disadvantage poor families and families of color. Twelve-thousand individuals leave prison weekly; they are denied livable work and basic opportunities in our shared communities due to a restrictive quilt of policies and practices. Although our government has dumped over $600 million to stop the churn of incarceration, release, and re-incarceration-also called failed reentry-77% return to incarceration within five years. Current approaches leave children without parents, perpetuate family poverty, and fail to make our communities safer.We have developed a data-driven, scalable reentry reform solution that harnesses technology, personal storytelling, and mass media to reduce stigma, promote behavior change, and unlock integral community opportunities for millions of formerly incarcerated individuals to thrive. A “Next Adopters Council” ensures sustainability, first transforming Florida communities, then moving to national impact. The impact will reverberate for generations to come.

Problem Statement

Twelve million people cycle through incarceration every year-95% of whom come home to our shared communities. Most will be re-incarcerated. Failed reentry affects more than these individuals-their children and families suffer, our communities are endangered, and we all bear the tremendous financial burdens of failed policies. Incarceration and failed reentry disproportionately impact people of color and people in poverty creating multi-generational disadvantage. Seventy-percent of incarcerated individuals are people of color, as compared to 28% of US residents; 67% of incarcerated individuals were in poverty prior to incarceration as compared to 15% of residents. Racially- and economically-biased policies, not differences in criminal behavior, have fueled incarceration growth. In 1970, the incarceration rate was 160/100,000; rates peaked in 2008 at 767/100,000. Although there have been incremental declines since 2008, incarceration cannot be dramatically reduced because of failed reentry. Reforms are needed across the entire criminal justice system, but reentry is the leverage point where the smallest change yields the greatest impact. Although moral, fiscal, and political momentum for criminal justice reform exists, there will never be sustainable appetite until we solve failed reentry.Prior solutions failed because they focused solely on incarcerated individuals through face-to-face casework, which severely limited their scope and reach. Because reentry is experienced and determined by communities, we need community-level interventions. Leveraging a data-driven, technology-based solution with incarcerated individuals and key stakeholders in communities will prepare individuals for reentry, unlock community-level opportunities for them to thrive, and reach millions-rather than thousands-of individuals as they leave prison.

Solution Overview

Our evidence-based solution resolves failed reentry by simultaneously preparing individuals and creating pathways to meaningful community opportunities required for success. We change individual- and community-level behavior using three components: 1) Technology- An adaptive game-based intervention delivered in prisons, libraries, and workplaces helps target beneficiaries (formerly incarcerated individuals) practice reentry and enhance supports after release, and allows key stakeholders (employers, correctional professionals, general public) to experience reentry barriers, respond to incarceration-induced trauma-symptoms, and develop skills to change policies; 2) Personal Storytelling– Peer Experts support target beneficiaries and showcase their personal stories to stakeholders, amplifying the impact of technology; and 3) Mass Media– Multimedia national public service announcements raise awareness and change behavior by showcasing how stakeholders created opportunities for target beneficiaries and resulting successes. Based on our decades of reform work, we will know progress is happening when we see momentum in requests to join our team, growing government and market-based partnerships, multimedia coverage, and additional philanthropic investments. Our reentry reform solution reaches 4.3 million people in seven Florida demonstration counties within 3.5 years, providing target beneficiaries and stakeholders necessary support and skills to create transformative change, resulting in changes to organizational policies to unlock employment, education, housing, and community participation possibilities. Within five years, blueprints and toolkits for scaling will be nationally distributed, affecting tens of millions of Americans. With our proven solution, formerly incarcerated individuals will dream, employers will gain a prepared workforce, generational incarceration will be disrupted, and we will all have safer communities to come home to.

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