Do you believe that every person has worth and potential? Do you believe that everyone deserves the chance to have not only their basic needs met, but the opportunity for self-actualization, defined by American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, as “becoming everything you are capable of becoming.”
Since 2017, Prison Fellowship has spearheaded a national effort to bring awareness about barriers faced by American adults with a criminal record. Criminal records limit a person’s access to education, jobs, housing, building wealth, building good credit, family reunification and many other things that they need to reach their potential, that is, become everything they are capable of becoming. Having even a minor criminal record such as a misdemeanor or even an arrest without conviction can create a lifelong array of barriers that stand in the way of successful reentry, creating broad implications for individuals, their families, economic security, and our economy. Mass incarceration is a major driver of poverty.
According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, the United States is the global leader in incarceration. Today, more than 1.5 million Americans are incarcerated in state and federal prisons, a statistic that is five times greater than it was in 1980. If you include jails, the number of incarcerated Americans increases to 2.2 million. One in three adults have been arrested by age 23. These statistics disproportionately affect communities of color, individuals with histories of abuse and mental illness, and the LGBT community.
As a nation, we must craft policies that ensure individuals with criminal records have a fair shot at an optimal life. We must remove barriers to reentry through not only policy but by every American providing formerly incarcerated individuals with a second chance. This can be done by:
- Removing the stigma of incarceration
- Providing a job to someone that has paid their debt to society
- Renting a property to someone with a criminal record
- Forgiving a family member of friend for their mistakes
- Becoming a mentor
- Ensuring that our children have a good education.
- Steering a child in the right direction when they are acting out
- Ensuring people receive effective mental health treatment and substance use treatment early on
Together we can open the door for approximately 70 million Americans to live up to their potential and become everything they are capable of becoming, after paying their debt to society!