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Success After Incarceration

In 2018 the Georgia Department of Community Supervision conducted a study that revealed the top nine things an individual must have in order to increase his or her chances for success upon release from incarceration and/or on supervision (probation or parole).

While some of the findings were quite obvious, the number one thing may surprise you. Let’s look at the first eight in descending order and then we will get to number one.

9. Lack of pro-social leisure activities.

8. Finances

7. Housing/Neighborhood

6. Substance abuse

5. Family

4. Employment/Education

3. Personality

2. Social networks

If these things are not in place for the returning citizen, then the likelihood of success is very low. This leads to what many refer to as “revolving door justice.” Men and women return home, only to find themselves unable to connect socially with the right people, which leads to a return to negative lifestyle choices, a lack of work, and a snowball effect of consequences that lead back to jail or prison much too soon after release.

According to a December 10, 2019 Crime Report Publication article… “nearly a third of the roughly 2.3 million individuals currently on probation every year fail to successfully complete their supervision requirements and wind up back in prison …”

Many will argue that this is the fault of the “system.” To some degree they are right. But if you commit a crime that puts you into the “system” then you must understand that the “system” is overwhelmed and disinterested in you. Public defenders are over worked, probation and parole officers are over loaded and underfunded, and the options for alternative sentencing are limited (for example instead of sentencing repeat drug offenders to prison, judges mandate them to long term recovery programs). The “system” is unfair and always will be, so if you commit a crime that puts you in the “system,” then you must accept this. You and I are not going to change the “system” overnight, so we have to work with the things we can change.

Others will argue that the problem is a lack of mental health programs. Our prisons are full of men and women who are suffering from mental health issues as our Federal and State governments have defunded large portions of mental health programs. While this is a problem, today’s mental health crisis is largely self-induced. More and more children are growing up with significant trauma inflicted by the uncertainty of single parent and unstable homes. The lack of a father in the home has a tremendous mental health impact on children who are growing up with unresolved issues. They are rebellious, lack the ability to interact socially, and have no respect for authority. We label them with social disorders and then attempt to medicate them while teaching them that a drug or altered mind is the answer to their problems. Many of today’s mental health issues are avoidable, but we cannot make men and women do the right thing when it comes to marriage and having children.

We could go through a laundry list of other people or organizations that we can blame for “revolving door justice” but that will not solve the immediate problem. The solution to the immediate problem resides with the person. It’s all about attitude, values, and beliefs. That is the number one thing that a person needs for success upon reentering into the real world.

The State of Georgia found that of all the factors needed for success, attitude, values, and beliefs were the most critical. Success does not rely on what anyone can do for me or who I’m around. As a matter of fact, if my attitude, values, and beliefs are centered on long lasting success, then I will put the things that bring failure out of my life and the things that bring success into my life. I will remove the negative people, I will stay away from the drugs, I will find good networks of people that have my best interest at heart. I will find a way to turn my negatives into positives. I will do whatever takes to find my greatest success around people who want me to be successful.

There are really two primary reasons for failure. I don’t want to change or I don’t know how to change. Those who don’t want to change won’t. Those who don’t know how to change will start asking the right people (pastors, counselors, and even probation and parole officers).

It all starts with a decision and an attitude of change.

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