What happens to men and women who are released from jail or prison? Many may say they don’t care – but the reality is that 95% of the people incarcerated in the U.S. today WILL released back into our community at some point.

So, here is the harsh reality – many who are released go directly back to what they were doing prior to incarceration – committing more crimes – which is highly contributed to the massive amounts of complexities after release.

People are released from jail in the same clothes they were arrested in – that could mean summer clothes in the wintertime, or maybe bloody/smelly clothes. We sometimes even see people re-arrested for stealing a coat from the store or clothes off a neighbor’s clothesline because they simply do not have warm clothes.

What if the person was arrested with no money? Then they are released with no money. So how do they get to where they need to go? They certainly can’t purchase a bus ticket. What if they need to go to social services to sign up for food stamps? How do they get their identification from DMV (which costs $16), or their social security card (that costs $12); both of which are needed to get food stamps or other benefits from social services.

Most offenders have burned so many bridges, that family and positive influences have cut them off. Often the only friends or family ‘left’ after release are the same people that they were associated with before incarceration – the same people, on the same street corner, doing the same thing they were doing prior to incarceration. It is nearly impossible for a different outcome in this situation.

So what’s next? At this point, many now have no ID, no cell phone, no housing (or not adequate housing that isn’t drug infested), no job, no food stamps.

Everything we do requires money, but how do we expect money to be gained in this situation? Then, what if child support is owed? They don’t have a job and can’t get one, but are expected to pay child support (child support obligations do not stop when in jail or when no job is had). This is a perfect stressor, or as we call it, a ‘trigger,’ to relapse – starting to use drugs again to overcome the stress. Or maybe to sell drugs for money for child support, food, rent, fines, or to keep the lights on. For females, it is often stripping or prostitution – but in order for many to engage in these activities they must be high to ‘do what they know they have to do.’ This is where it starts all over again – drugs and institutions.

It is because of these very critical situations that REAL Life was established – to assist people overcome these obstacles. While we know we can’t remove the obstacles, we can assist to move past them so they can succeed. REAL Life provides the extra push and motivation necessary to get them over the hurdle. Through mentorship and walking alongside clients, and sometimes providing minimal financial assistance so an ID or bus tickets, we are able to contribute in moving our clients out of a negative lifestyle and into a thriving one.