Staying connected with family while in prison leads to better outcomes after release and lower chances of returning to prison. So why shouldn’t the same apply to services that connect to the outside world? It also makes people inside feel better and behave better.
Being in prison means being separated from family and the outside world. Communication is limited and controlled. Staying in touch with family also helps people be less controlling and distant in their relationships. It’s tough to plan for after prison while you’re still inside because you don’t have much contact with the outside world. And sometimes, you can’t go back to where you lived or worked before.
Staying in touch with family helps with planning for after prison. Getting ready to re-enter society is a big step, but it’s often uncertain. Many people about to get out don’t know where they’ll live or work, or how they’ll support themselves. Planning ahead can make re-entry smoother and help people get back to normal life more easily.
Our services help people prepare for success and make things easier when they come out of prison. This reduces the stress of dealing with all the changes that happened while they were away. Mental health problems like feeling really down, being anxious, or having bad memories (called PTSD) can happen after being in prison. Getting a letter from us can make someone feel like someone cares, and that can make a huge difference in their life.
In the United States, incarceration serves as a primary method of punishment, penal labor, and rehabilitation for individuals convicted of crimes or offenses. Prison sentences are typically reserved for those found guilty of more serious crimes, known as felonies under state and federal laws. Currently, over five million individuals are under the supervision of the criminal justice system. Approximately two million people are held in state or federal prisons and local jails, 2.9 million are on probation, and more than 800,000 are on parole. As of the end of 2021, there were one million people incarcerated in state prisons, 157,000 in federal prisons, and 636,000 in local jails. The U.S. prison population had decreased by 25% from its peak in 2009.
Incarceration for drug offenses affects about one in every five people in U.S. prisons, while violent offenses impact over three in every five individuals (62%) in state prisons. Property offenses lead to the imprisonment of about one in every seven individuals (14%) in state prisons.
The United States has a higher incarceration rate compared to most developed nations, and this rate has grown significantly since the 1970s. As of May 7, 2023, the U.S. ranks sixth globally in terms of incarceration rate, with 531 individuals per 100,000, and maintains the highest prison and jail population. The cost of prison operations, parole, and probation is approximately $81 billion annually. Additionally, expenses related to court costs, bail bond fees, and prison phone fees amount to another $38 billion each year.
From its peak level in 2009, the U.S. has seen an average annual decarceration rate of 2.3%, including a significant drop of 14.1% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is substantial variation in the decline of state prison populations, with states like Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York reducing their prison populations by over 50% since reaching their peak levels. A total of 25 states have downsized their prison populations by 25% since reaching their peaks. The federal prison population has decreased by 27% relative to its peak in 2011.
Although debtor’s prisons are no longer in existence in the U.S., some states still allow individuals to be incarcerated for debt as of 2016. The Vera Institute of Justice noted in 2015 that a majority of those in local and county jails are held for minor infractions and have longer stays due to an inability to pay court-related costs.