Talking about . . . release and recidivism
We all want our communities to be safe and our criminal justice system to be fair, humane and effective. When formerly incarcerated people return to their communities without a safety net, their recidivism rates run well above 60 percent. Some states have provided a safety net, such as job training, housing assistance, treatment for substance abuse and mental health and more, which, substantially reduces recidivism. What is different in communities with lower recidivism rates? What are the costs and benefits of our current practices and what opportunities are there to improve our systems? This conversation explores opportunities and obstacles to change with the goal that our community is safe for everyone.
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Background reading (optional)
While you don't need to be an expert on this topic, sometimes people want background information. Our partner, AllSides, has prepared a variety of articles reflecting multiple sides of this topic.
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Now that you are all together, here we go!
This Living Room Conversation flows through five rounds of questions and a closing. Some rounds ask you to answer each question. Others feature multiple questions that serve as conversation starters — you need only respond to the one or two you find most interesting.
Before you begin your conversation, please go over the Conversation Ground Rules with your participants.
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One. Why are we here?
What interested you or drew you to this topic?
Two. Your core values
- what sense of purpose or duty guides you in life? What is your mission statement?
- what would your best friend say about who you are and what makes you tick?
- what are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country, now and long-term?
Three. What are your biggest concerns about release and recidivism?
Remember that the goal of this Living Room Conversation is for each participant to listen to and learn about the different opinions within the group to see where you might share interests, intentions and goals.
- what is an appropriate “road back to success” in our community for people who have been convicted?
- if you or a loved one has been incarcerated, what did you/they need most (and when) upon release?
- since jobs and housing, along with other support, are needed to reduce recidivism, what solutions would you recommend?
- where is community safety and post-release programs on your top 10 community focus list? Why?
- in one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation;
- what new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
- has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
Five. Accomplishment and moving forward
- name one important thing that was accomplished here;
- is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?
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