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Second Chances

The first year after leaving prison is harder for Hispanics

Contrary to what some may think, people who commit violent crimes are less likely to return to jail than those who commit other types of offenses. Studies show the number of former inmates who end up returning to prison for a new crime, as well as just how big a challenge that ‘Second chance’ is.
5 Nov 2019 – 06:13 PM EST

The first 72 hours after being released are crucial. Having counted down the days with scratches on a cell wall, that longed-for moment is a dream that can vanish in just three days. More than ten studies and organizations explain that reentry programs should put special emphasis on this decisive transition period following release.

In fact, several groups have a checklist of the things that need to happen in those first moments in order for an inmate’s return to society to be successful. Others focus their attention specifically on that period, such as “The first 72+” and “Re-Entry 72”, both based in Louisiana.

A look at the work of around ten organizations and leaders who help men and women on this journey suggests that the hardest battles they face are the stigma surrounding their mistakes and the challenge of rebuilding their self-esteem. There are also more tangible hurdles, such as the inability to get a good job, pay rent or be accepted into residents’ associations, among others.

In the United States, there are a total of 2,234,563 people in state and federal prisons, as well as jails. Of them, 445,246 are of Hispanic origin, representing 20% of the total, while 37% are white and 33% are black.

The data shows beyond doubt that minorities have the worst of it: according to statistics from the United States Census, 60% of the country’s general population are white, 13% are black and 18% are of Hispanic origin.

The most comprehensive study on reoffending to date was carried out by the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics. This department spent nine years following 401,288 people who were released from state prisons in 30 states in 2005.

Together, these states contributed 77% of all inmates released from state prisons that year. Among the former inmates included in the study, 18% were Hispanic. There are other conclusions to be made as well.

For example, when a person reached three years post-release without having returned to jail, the risk of reoffending fell dramatically. Monitoring between 2005 and 2014 showed that five out of every six people who left state prisons were arrested again at least once for some kind of new offense or parole violation during that time.

In the case of women, recidivism over the nine years is around 77% in general. As with men, the first three years after being released are the most risky in terms of reoffending.

One of the toughest battles for those returning to society after being incarcerated is fighting prejudices and the fear of how they might behave. However, figures like these strip away several myths that may make people less likely to employ them or rent them a home, for example.

How big is the challenge?


This work forms part of the “Second chance” project, thanks to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Coordination: Tamoa Calzadilla and Olivia Liendo.
Research and production assistance: Ana María Carrano, Alexandra Barrera, Albany Urbaez Tahuil and Carolina Rosas.
Photography and photography layout: David Maris.
General production: Emilce Elgarresta and Stephen P. Keppel.
Social media: María Carolina Hurtado, María Dayana Patiño and Liliana Castaño.