Out for Life: The Exodus Project Empowers Inmates
AY Magazine Staff
The U.S. has the highest population of incarcerated individuals in the world, and Arkansas has the fourth highest imprisonment rate of all 50 states. Recidivism greatly impacts these numbers; however, there are several programs across the country empowering inmates so they can live normal lives after their re-entry into society.
Simply put, recidivism is the reoccurrence of crime among people known to have committed crimes before. These individuals, usually convicted of nonviolent crimes, often re-enter the criminal justice system because, after being released, they are not equipped with the tools necessary to resume their lives after imprisonment. In fact, according to the National Institute of Justice, within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners are rearrested, and within five years of release, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners are rearrested.
With these alarming numbers, people across the state often wonder what initiatives have been put in place to crack down on reducing recidivism in our communities. There are a few programs and organizations dedicated to reducing recidivism in Arkansas, but The Exodus Project has a proven method to helping these individuals navigate their return to society. Working in partnership with Arkansas Department of Community Corrections, they have helped restore hundreds of inmates to their families and communities.
The Exodus Project utilizes a three-phase program that seeks to reduce the chances of individuals reverting back to a life of crime: education, building a community network and restoration. Selected candidates for the program begin as students in The Exodus Academy. Here, they spend the last three to four months of their sentence as students of the academy, where they will focus on four streams of study: ethics and character, career development, resource management, and restoration and recovery.
“Our program is specifically designed to help our students and graduates learn how to use their time, money, talent and relationships to create value for themselves and the community,” said Paul Stevens, executive director of The Exodus Project. “The work done by our directors, staff and volunteers is a labor of love, and we believe the overall health of Arkansas communities, economically, socially and spiritually, is significantly impacted when these returning citizens are fully restored.”
The Exodus Project not only provides education, but also case management services for interested graduates and others in the community. The Exodus Project partners with other service providers and volunteers in the community to create a network designed to help address recovery needs, such as housing and employment opportunities. In the process, the graduates get the opportunity to develop a true support network. Want to know how you can help do your part in reducing recidivism? Check out these three ways you can help today:
VOLUNTEER AND DONATE
Organizations like The Exodus Project are always in need of volunteers and donations to assist in education and restoration efforts. This year, The Exodus Project will host the 2018 Out for Life Awards honoring Steve Landers, Eric Higgins and Tara Bennett. On Thursday, Sept. 27, local tastemakers and industry professionals will gather for an evening benefiting The Exodus Project and bringing awareness to a great cause. The event will take place at 6 p.m. at the Chenal Country Club, and will be a great opportunity for Arkansans across the state to support the program.
HELP WITH JOB SEARCHES
A little help can go a long way! If you know someone who has just been released or is being released soon, helping them find a job is a great place to start! Having a job is an extremely vital part to ensuring former inmates get a fresh start after being released. The Exodus Project focuses on helping students develop an entrepreneurial mindset, skills for full-time employment and a plan for a future career.
BE POLITICALLY ACTIVE
Read a paper, listen to the news, attend city council meetings and vote! These are all ways you can stay abreast on current issues in your community and let your voice be heard. Want to go a step further? Write a letter to your elected officials, campaign for candidates that align with your value system and join the fight against issues that further disenfranchise former inmates.
Although there is no magic pill that will end recidivism completely, the benefits of programs that focus on reducing recidivism are endless. From improving public safety and reducing taxpayer spending on prisons, to helping formerly incarcerated people successfully resume family and community responsibilities, programs like these are essential to our communities.
For more information on The Exodus Project and the 2018 Out for Life Awards, please visit exodus.life.