"Getting On After Getting Out: A Re-entry Guide for Colorado" by Carol Peeples & Christie Donner
by Diane Hartman
Here’s a book you hope you’ll never need. But if your clients are entering or exiting a Colorado prison, this book is invaluable.
Written and published by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC), it’s aimed at reducing recidivism by providing comprehensive information to people in prison or on parole. The guide is overflowing with good advice and concrete ideas — many of which come from incarcerated people themselves.
You’ve heard the stats. We imprison more people than any country in the world (that would be: 2,319,258 adult inmates at the beginning of 2008). One in 100 Americans are in prison and once they’re released, half are back behind bars within three years, according to the 2008 report by The Pew Center on the States.
In Colorado, the recidivism rate is even higher for people released on mandatory parole. Within three years of release from the Department of Corrections, 62 percent of this group returned to prison. The overwhelming majority were re-incarcerated because of a technical violation, not for committing a new crime.
Current prison growth is not driven by an increase in crime or a surge in population. It mostly comes from policy choices, said Christie Donner, executive director of CCJRC.
Obviously, reducing the recidivism rate is crucial. Hence, this book.
CCJRC advises incarcerated people to start developing a re-entry plan as soon as they’re imprisoned. Those facing incarceration should build skill sets, get as much education as possible and rectify financial situations. (Who knew you had to pay child support while you’re in prison?) The guide also advises people to resolve legal matters, stay connected with family and friends, save money for release time, choose a parole sponsor, write a release plan, and much more. The emphasis in the first half of the book is the process of release — going before the parole board, understanding community corrections and understanding parole.
The emphasis in the last half of the book is information people need after release: finding a place to live, looking for a job, getting identification documents, applying for benefits and seeking help from community organizations. The authors also give lots of good advice for the first days out of prison, from understanding how critical the first 72 hours are to how to get up-to-date on the latest technology.
The guide features a letter from a person who’s been out for three years to someone about to get out on parole. He says parole was the hardest job he’d ever done. He talked about how fast life goes, how overwhelming all the choices are and how necessary a support system is.
More than 20,000 copies of the guide were distributed for free to people in prison and on parole in Colorado, thanks to the grants CCJRC received. Additional copies are $10, and all proceeds go toward sustaining the project.
“Most people understand that people coming out of prison face a number of barriers. Lack of correct information has been one of those barriers, and that’s why we wrote the book. If we can help more people succeed and stop churning so many people back into prison, we can decrease our state’s recidivism rate,” Peeples said. “And if we can decrease the recidivism rate, the state will save hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
If interested in purchasing copies or underwriting distribution of this guide to people in prison, call Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition at (303) 825-0122. Additional information is online at http://www.ccjrc.org.