It's amazing and startling to learn that there are over 7 million children in the United States who have a parent currently involved in the criminal justice system. When you think about reentry and life after incarceration, thoughts immediately go toward the person who was released. But like a pebble in the water, life after incarceration affects the family, the children and the community of that individual.
When individuals return home from incarceration, they rarely return back to the lives they left behind. In 2011, several individuals with histories of incarceration from New York City, who were participants in the program at The Center for Employment Opportunities began to tell their stories. Documenting their lives, three photographers followed these individuals as they began the frequently difficult path to securing a job, reconnecting with their families and finding a stable environment in which to live. These stories are about second chances to create a new future and to be released from their past.
This project shows the determination that so many people returning home from prison have to find a job, provide for their families and turn their lives around. These photo essays document the difficulty (and the joy) of reentry, as well as the potential each and every one of these individuals has to do great things. The project helps highlight the work that needs to be done to break the cycle of recidivism that so many people experience. The nonpartisan, nonprofit social and education research organization, MDRC, found compelling results of a randomized study of the Center for Employment Opportunities. The results show that CEO's jobs program for newly released prison inmates left them 22 percent less likely to be convicted of another crime. In addition, the evaluation showed that CEO more than pays for itself: each $1 spent delivered up to $3.85 in benefits.
One participant featured in CEO's photo essay is Baron Johnson. Baron spent 5 years in prison, is currently 24 years old and lives in the Bronx with his family. He has four young daughters that mean the world to him but he talks about the challenges in reconnecting with his children, "I was always excited about the day I would go home...but today I still have trouble reconnecting with my kids... I played a big role in that because I should have been thinking the way I'm thinking now." I Through CEO, Baron earned his GED and is now employed full time as a Driver's Helper.
As CEO's mission stands, we are determined to continue on the path to support and prepare individuals who enter into our program for a smoother transition back into the workforce, helping to improve public safety and create healthier families and communities. As long as we continue this work, we will also continue to celebrate the difference our work can make in the lives of 7 million children.