WALLA WALLA — Former convicts face many challenges in staying on a straight path, according to findings by the U.S. Department of Justice, said Chuck Hindman, board president of the STAR Project in Walla Walla.
Two-thirds of those released from behind bars are rearrested for a new offense within three years, and 54 percent are reincarcerated. Problems include mental disabilities, physical handicaps, low education levels, a lack of vocational skills and job experience, plus substance abuse.
The communities they return to are often challenged by high unemployment rates, poverty, crime and a lack of social services. Housing is often denied, even from family members and organized housing programs.
No government agency is charged with overseeing the problems of recidivism and homelessness for ex-convicts and parole programs are widely seen as underfinanced and overwhelmed.
A successful re-entry program has to provide stable housing, educational and vocational opportunities, access to health care, family reunification counseling, substance use treatment and other services aimed at promoting independence, Hindman said. “STAR does all of these.”