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Charlotte Talks: Ex-Offenders and Challenges on Transitioning Back to Society

Meesh/Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Monday, July 24 2017

Our recent public conversation on the city’s homicide problem shed light on another significant issue:  the difficulty faced by those released from prison, in re-integrating into society.  11,314 people in North Carolina are newly released or on parole and they face major impediments to leading successful lives out of prison.  We talk about solutions with an ex-offender helping others and with experts in that field.

Earlier this month, our public conversation discussing the increasing number of Charlotte homicides brought to light yet another pressing issue –criminal justice reform.

In North Carolina an estimated one in every five adults has a criminal record. As we learned in the public conversation, some ex-offenders who are re-enter society struggle to find gainful employment.

What else do these ex-offenders encounter when they leave prison? For those re-entering society, current policies can limit their opportunities and create barriers not only to employment but also to education, housing, healthcare and civic participation.

Legislation like Ban the Box has not been approved in North Carolina, but other states report mixed results, citing that there are unintended consequences with the Ban the Box law, which is intended to help ex-offenders by taking out portions on applications that discuss criminal records.

The barriers ex-offenders face can sometimes lead to repeated incarcerations. We'll talk about groups that are working to help ex-offenders stop the cycle and discuss whether North Carolina is equipped to serve the now 11,314 people newly released or on parole as they reintegrate into society. 

Best practices to reduce recidivism

“We need to start the day they enter. In terms of working on what their particular needs are. Not everybody has the same need. Sometimes it’s substance abuse, mental health or education. Start that process in the prison and then transition into the community.”

–Shelley Listwan, criminal justice professor,
UNC Charlotte

“You shouldn’t have to wait until you come to find a reentry program. You need to know those things years before you come home, not the day of. That’s when he or she resorts back, they get frustrated.”

– Gemini Boyd, CEO of Project BOLT

On the rehabilitation of inmates

“The warden sets the tone for the prison. Everyone needs to be involved in the rehabilitation of the inmates. That’s a philosophical shift as opposed to punishing the inmate.”

–Shelley Listwan, criminal justice professor,
UNC Charlotte

“You have AA sponsors, you need sponsors for people being released from prison.”

–Gemini Boyd, CEO of Project BOLT


Gemini Boyd, Community Activist and CEO of Project BOLT

Myra Clark, Executive Director for The Center for Community Transitions

Shelley Listwan, Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at UNC Charlotte.

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