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April is National Second Chance Month

The RISE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee invites you to recognize National Second Chance Month and Arab-American Heritage Month during April, as these events directly impact the population we serve and care about. 

National Second Chance Month & Reentry Week

On March 31, 2022, President Biden proclaimed April 2022 as Second Chance Month and April 26-30 as National Reentry Week, highlighting the fact that more than 640,000 individuals return to their communities from prisons and jails every year and the importance of their successful transitions back into society.

The National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) and its partners are hosting Second Chance Month featuring resources and webinars during the month of April to support reentry organizations. 

Webinars cover a range of topics that support reentry programs’ success, including the role of education, employment, housing, behavioral health, and understanding the needs of youth and young adults; the importance of family and community engagement; and tools to strengthen program evaluation. 

While significant investments have been made toward supporting individuals returning to their communities, there is still much work to be done to improve recidivism.

Did you know that:

  • The U.S. has the highest prison population of any country, comprising 25% of the world’s prisoners, and the U.S. has some of the highest recidivism rates in the world.
  • According to the National Institute of Justice, almost 44% of individuals released return before the first year out of prison. 
  • In 2005, about 68% of 405,000 individuals released from prison were arrested for a new crime within three years, and 77% were arrested within five years. 
  • Nebraska’s recidivism rate is approximately 30%.

Factors contributing to recidivism include a person’s social environment and community, circumstances before incarceration, events during their imprisonment, and difficulty adjusting back to normal life. Many of these individuals have trouble reconnecting with family and finding a job to support themselves. 

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, rates of imprisonment in Nebraska have grown dramatically in the last 40 years.

While significant investments have been made toward supporting individuals returning to their communities, there is still much work to be done to improve recidivism.

The Prison Policy Initiative reports 11,000 people from Nebraska are behind bars.

The number of people impacted by county and city jails in Nebraska is much larger because people cycle through local jails relatively quickly. It’s estimated at least 30,000 people are booked into local jails in Nebraska annually.

This drives organizations like RISE to serve incarcerated individuals to set them up for success upon returning to their communities.

This is also why policy is vital in addressing community problems that lead to high recidivism rates. This year, Jasmine facilitated roundtable discussions for impacted community members’ voices to be heard, lobbied the state legislature, and hosted the 3rd Annual Day of Empathy. These initiatives advocate for policies that would strengthen our communities and remove barriers for individuals with criminal histories.

Arab-American Overrepresentation in the Justice System

The Vera Institute published a technical report discussing law enforcement and Arab-American community relations deteriorated after the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001.

Given the substantial shifts in government policies and suspicion of Arab American communities after 9/11, it is not surprising to find the experiences and consciousness of this group have gone through some radical changes, including: 

  • Increased victimization and harassment
  • Heightened suspicion
  • Anxiety about a place in American society, particularly fueled by new federal policies
  • Concerns about civil liberties

According to a 2019 NPR article:

The civil rights organization, Muslim Advocates, reported Muslims make up about 9% of state prisoners, though they are only about 1% of the U.S. population. They also found that some incarcerated Muslims face significant obstacles to practicing their faith while in prison.

In Nebraska, 6.9% of the male prison population identify as Muslim, whereas less than 1% of the state population identifies as Muslim.

Learning more...

RISE staff will be learning more about the overrepresentation of Arab and Muslim-Americans during May’s All Staff Meeting on May 13th. 

Additionally, consider watching A Thousand and One Journeys, a documentary film that paints a portrait of the Arab-American immigrant experience through the stories of people who, like all Americans, immigrated in pursuit of the American Dream.

The film explores the personal stories of Arab-Americans, including Senator George Mitchell, General John Abizaid, and Helen Thomas, among others, and how they have contributed to the American experience. In addition, the film discusses the diverse experiences of people from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula, each with unique experiences, contributions, and faiths - but all of whom have made America their home and their journey as an essential part of the larger American Experience.

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