America is a country that offers endless possibilities. The American Dream is a beacon of hope for many who want to work hard and contribute to their communities. For some, the path to achieving that dream is clear. But for others, there are barriers.

For those who have been previously incarcerated, rejoining their communities can prove to be a difficult and seemingly impossible task.

The justice system does not adequately prepare individuals to return to life outside prison walls.  Due to lack of preparation and opportunity, many individuals re-entering society often return to a life of crime shortly after their release. In fact, statistics show that the majority of those previously incarcerated will re-offend within just a few years of re-entry. That recidivism threatens communities and prevents formerly incarcerated folks from living successful lives.

Reducing the recidivism rate is key to helping people get their lives back on track. That can be done by prioritizing rehabilitation before individuals leave prison. New, evidence-based programs are being used in several states to drive down recidivism by equipping inmates with the skills needed to successfully re-enter society.

Preparing individuals for life outside prison comes in many forms, from job training and education to treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues. The goal in all those programs should be the same – empower people with the tools they need to find employment, connect with their families and lead healthy, law-abiding lives.

We want to continue to be a country that offers opportunity to everyone. We want to embrace changes that break down barriers for those who want to contribute to society. Communities and organizations can help by providing opportunity and resources to those reentering society; and by giving them a ‘second chance.’