Involvement in the criminal justice system puts individuals at greater risk of living in poverty. The reasons for this overrepresentation are complex. Low-income Canadians greatly outnumber wealthier Canadians in the criminal justice system. They are more at risk of participating in crime because of the social and economic challenges they face.
After incarceration, offenders face a myriad of challenges reintegrating into the community and securing employment. For example, 30% of those incarcerated in Canada will have no home to go to upon release. Research shows that employment is the single best influence that reduces the rate of reoffending.
Factors preventing successful offender reintegration
- low self-esteem
- low motivation
- skills deficit and/ or lack of training
- mental illness
- substance abuse
- lack of stable accommodation
- social factors such as negative peer influence
- absence of family support
- and a poor employment record
United Way supports a number of programs in our community that help individuals avoid criminal behavior and receive appropriate mental health supports.
For example, Edmonton John Howard Society’s (EJHS) REE*START program assists youth aged 15-22 with:
- employment preparation
- support and advocacy
- identification and training
- goal setting
Many of the youth served through the REE*START program share common elements such as abuse, abandonment, addictions and family dysfunction. EJHS works with clients to develop the resources they need to take control and change the next chapter of their lives.
Last year, 652 clients were served by REE*START and 100% of clients said the program “made a difference in my life.” Both of these initiatives work with clients to avoid contact with, or further involvement with, the criminal justice system. With proper supports and treatment, many people living with mental health challenges are fully engaged citizens and active participants in all aspects of social and economic life.