Illinois officials have emphasized re-entry services for inmates who have been convicted of serious crimes. But finding steady employment, even for those who earned master’s degrees while inside, remains difficult. Part of the issue is related to their incarceration, but another part of the issue has to do with the fact that employers are not likely to hire someone with a master’s degree for low-level warehouse work. The employer will figure they will get bored with the job and be gone in a few weeks.
Now one former inmate who was convicted of murder says he’s having difficulty finding work despite the fact that he has a master’s degree. It further becomes a problem when the former inmate has no legitimate means of earning money. The chances of that inmate going back to prison escalate exponentially.
What Prevents Former Inmates From Getting Jobs?
Aside from the obvious stigma attached to incarceration, especially for violent crimes, there are laws and policies in place that often prevent formerly-incarcerated people from accessing jobs or housing. Many believe that housing and jobs are exactly what formerly incarcerated people need to re-enter society successfully. However, no one wants a formerly-convicted sex offender to be able to apply for teaching certification. So, there are conflicting pressures that inform this problem.
Efforts to Decrease Recidivism
As of 2023, Illinois announced a $23-million program to help formerly-convicted inmates get housing vouchers and retain services they received while in prison. The services are set to include healthcare, legal, and job placement support services.
Today, efforts to apply wage subsidies to businesses that employ individuals returning to society from prison are underway. There is also an effort to create a Department of Returning Resident Affairs, which would help advocate for and meet the needs of those re-entering society from prison. Efforts are also underway to remove 1,200 rules that create a system of perpetual punishment for those who committed certain crimes.
What About the Money?
Money is an issue because most individuals do not want their taxes to help criminals. However, on the flip side, the effort is to reduce crime overall. Reducing crime helps everyone, and to the extent that these efforts will reduce recidivism, they will save the taxpayers money if the former inmate does not re-offend. The former inmate would then be working and contributing tax money to society just like the rest of us. Ultimately, proponents believe that this would save money, but it takes money to get there.
To be sure, Illinois spends nearly $2 billion each year to provide for prisoners. Only a fraction of that money goes toward rehabilitation.
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