At any one time, nearly 6.9 million people are on probation, in jail, in prison, or on parole in the United Sates. Each year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons. Another 9 million cycle through local jails. More than two-thirds of prisoners are rearrested within 3 years of their release and half are reincarcerated. When reentry fails, the costs are high — more crime, more victims, and more pressure on already-strained state and municipal budgets. There is also more family distress and community instability. Roughly 1 in 28 children currently has a parent behind bars. Mass incarceration has been a major driver of poverty. Without mass incarceration, it is estimated that 5 million fewer Americans would have been poor between 1980 and 2014.
Through the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry, federal agencies are working together to enhance community safety and well-being, assist those returning from prison and jail in becoming productive citizens, and save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration. Because reintegration to the community after incarceration intersects with issues of health, housing, education, employment, family, faith, and community well-being, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies are focusing on the reentry population with activities that aim to improve outcomes in these areas.
Individuals, families, and communities served by HHS programs are affected by high rates of incarceration. HHS initiatives that target this population encompass a range of human services, health, and behavioral health services. Human services initiatives aim to improve child outcomes, enhance family relationships, promote employment opportunities, and connect individuals and families affected by incarceration with needed supportive services with a larger goal of increasing the safety and economic well-being of reentering individuals, their families, and the communities to which they return. Health activities focus on connecting individuals leaving the criminal justice system with health insurance, needed treatment and preventative care. They also address the individual, family and community public health risks of incarceration and reentry, including substance abuse, mental health, chronic disease, oral health, and the gender-specific needs of the incarcerated and reentering population. Jointly, the health and human services efforts of HHS strive to increase stability, health, and overall well-being for incarcerated and reentering individuals and their families.