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For Johnny Perez, returning to society and to his family after being in prison for 13 years wasn't easy. “[The] world was a different place than the one that I left,” says Johnny. “The biggest challenge was learning how to live with a family who [had] learned to live without you.”
It isn't just the changes in society, technology, and culture that formerly incarcerated people are up against. The law makes returning home from prison more difficult, too. People living with a conviction record face nearly 50,000 federal, state, and local legal restrictions — often referred to as collateral consequences — that consistently impair them from freely pursuing the American dream. Many of those hurdles make it difficult for them to obtain basic necessities to survive, including employment, education, and affordable housing.
These collateral consequences drive re-arrest and significantly contribute to extraordinary high rates of recidivism. Each year, 650,000 men and women nationwide return from prison to their communities. About half of them will return to prison within a matter of years. Because of the pervasive culture of legalized discrimination aimed at people living with a criminal record, nearly 75 percent of formerly incarcerated people are still unemployed a year after release.
Rather than help formerly incarcerated people get the health care, training, and education they need to regain their livelihood, the lack of meaningful resources makes it more likely that they will wind up back in the criminal justice system soon after they've left it.