Every year, more than 650,000 Americans return to their communities from prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
They’ve done their time. Paid their debt to society.
But formerly incarcerated people are routinely blocked from getting jobs, housing and voting by federal, state and local legal restrictions because of these records. In fact, across the United States, more than 48,000 legal restrictions limit, among other things, where former inmates can work, whether they can vote and their ability to get housing, according to the National Reentry Resource Center.
Establishing Sustainable Connections, The Hurdle Life Coach and the ACLU of South Dakota are hosting a community conversation at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25, at Full Circle Book Co-op to discuss the long-term effects mass incarceration and the barriers to re-entry has on formerly incarcerated people and their families and communities.
“Formerly incarcerated people are subject to punishments, exclusions and restrictions that impair their ability to live their lives unencumbered,” said Mark Blackburn, Establishing Sustainable Connections president. “Re-entry is a lifetime process, but it shouldn’t be.”
Moderated by Terry Liggins of The Hurdle Life Coach and Libby Skarin of the ACLU of South Dakota, this interactive discussion will touch on topics such as accessible housing and voter suppression.
“At least 95 percent of people incarcerated will be released back to their communities at some point,” Skarin said. “People often say ‘don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.’ But what people fail to realize is that ‘the time’ never really ends. Because of the barriers placed on formerly incarcerated people, a fresh start can seem impossible, no matter what ‘the crime’ was or how long ago it happened.”
If prison is meant to rehabilitate people, then rehabilitation and support must extend beyond the prison walls and into the re-entry process.
“Every person living with a criminal record should have an equal opportunity to build a successful and fulfilling life,” Liggins said. “This includes people who have been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, people who have been convicted of a violent or non-violent offense, people who are just beginning their reentry process, and people who have been in society for decades.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: ESC After Dark: Voter Suppression and Housing Access for the Formerly Incarcerated
WHEN: 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25
WHERE: Full Circle Book Co-op, 123 W. 10th St., Sioux Falls
SPONSORED BY: Establishing Sustainable Connections, The Hurdle Life Coach and the ACLU of South Dakota
FOR INFORMATION: Go to www.aclusd.org/events
About Establishing Sustainable Connections
Establishing Sustainable Connection supports and direct efforts to create and sustain community relationships that will rebuild strength and prosperity where it hasn’t been or has been damaged or lost. The organization’s focus is to provide people with the necessary resources needed for passages toward personal success by understanding social justice and enhancing cross-cultural competency and community inclusiveness.
About The Hurdle Life Coach
The Hurdle Life Coach provides educational, inspirational and motivational public speaking to students and professionals of all ages to audiences of all sizes. The vision of Hurdle Life Coach is a world where everyone is seen, supported and empowered.
About the ACLU of South Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.