In the above video, Jayson Williams responds to New Jersey Governor McGreevey’s recent New Jersey Reentry Corporation Report called “New Jersey Reentry Services Commission Barriers, Best Practices, and Action Items for Improving Reentry Services.”
An Open Letter to NJ Reentry Services
By Jayson Williams
On behalf of my colleagues at Futures Recovery Healthcare, I whole-heartedly commend the New Jersey Reentry Corporation and Governor McGreevey for recommending actions that will help people disenfranchised by incarceration to rejoin society as fully participating citizens. The Corporation’s report “New Jersey Reentry Services Commission Barriers, Best Practices, and Action Items for Improving Reentry Services” provides a crucial roadmap to restore the possibility of a productive life for America’s large population of formerly incarcerated people.
Supportive friends and access to financial, legal, and healthcare resources significantly helped my reentry. Most people who leave prison are not blessed with the same advantages and struggle with basic needs. If adopted, the policies recommended by NJRC will give formerly incarcerated people a fighting chance at restoring their quality of life and their ability to contribute to society. For too many people, being released from the physical constraints of prison does not relieve them from a lifetime of emotional, spiritual, and material imprisonment. Formerly incarcerated people face barriers to gaining the foundation of health, housing, documentation, and acceptance needed to thrive as full members of society — challenges that significantly increase the odds of recidivism.
The Corporation’s inclusion of addiction treatment as a principal recommendation is particularly encouraging. After my time in the criminal justice system and struggles with substance misuse, I dedicated my life to helping people with addiction. Today, I see striking similarities between the struggles of reentry from prison and recovery from addiction.
The issues of addiction and incarceration are highly linked. The NJRC report indicates that many people struggle with addiction before being imprisoned or develop addictions during or after incarceration. The report cites overdose as a leading cause of death in the days following release from prison. Addiction and incarceration share common contributors including, unaddressed trauma and negative life experiences, untreated mental health conditions, and environmental factors. The heavy stigma surrounding addiction and imprisonment exposes people in reentry and recovery to social isolation, unemployment, insecure housing, and other problems that perpetuate recidivism and relapse.
The recommendations of the NJRC, if implemented, can change the future of people affected by incarceration and addiction by restoring the rights, resources, and support that allow them to feel hope and to strive toward lives of purpose and meaning — keys to ending the damaging cycles of incarceration and addiction.