When you are newly released from prison, you will be faced with rebuilding your life and planning for your future without engaging in illegal activities that could land you back in prison.
As an ex-prisoner, it won’t always be easy and you should expect to face significant challenges, at least initially.
Some help is available, however, and includes limited financial assistance for released prisoners.
The best time to learn about resources that can help you re-enter society is before your release. If your release date or a family member’s release date is fast approaching, you need to start working on an action plan as soon as possible.
In this guide, we’ll explore what financial aid you may be eligible for, as well as some other important steps you should take to get your new life off to the best possible start.
Identity Documents And Social Security Number Card
As a newly released prisoner, it is important that you have all your documents in order. You need to show your ID for everything these days and a normal life would be impossible without your ID.
If you don’t have a valid ID, make it a priority to get one. You’ll need an ID to get a job, find a place to live, open a bank account, get a phone (a must these days), and apply for financial aid.
For most people, ID means a state-issued driver’s license or identification card. Some states have programs that provide state-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards to eligible inmates upon release. If you’re still in jail, ask an official at your facility what you need to do to get started.
States that have an ID re-entry initiative include California, Illinois, Florida, Washington, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota. This is not an exhaustive list and if you have already been released, you should search online for “Inmate ID” or “Reentry ID” after your state to see if you can help you get your ID.
Your birth certificate is the main document you will need to apply for identification. If you don’t have a copy of your birth certificate, request one at your state’s vital records website or office.
Social Security number one is another required document. The fastest way to get your Social Security number if you don’t already have one or if you need a copy of your card is to go to your local Social Security office. At the office, they can issue you with the number there and then while a mailed application can take weeks.
Bank Account & Finances
A bank account is essential for everyone in today’s world.
If you’ve been in prison for a long time, you might be used to getting a pay packet at the end of the week with actual cash. Gone are those days.
Now your salary has been paid into your bank account. Your landlord will also typically require a check or direct deposit payment for your rent, and utility companies expect payment in the same way.
You’ll need an ID, Social Security number, and proof of address to apply for a bank account. Since your finances will be fairly limited initially, look for basic accounts that don’t charge fees.
Chime is an online bank that offers bank accounts for the poor or people with no credit history. Their Second Chance Bank account has no monthly fees and no fees for using their debit cards. The online application takes 2 minutes and they do not do a credit check.
Because your credit report may have been affected by your time in prison, it is important to rebuild your credit history. A good credit score will make it possible for you to rent a house and finance a car.
Having a bank account in good standing is the first step in the process, as is paying off any outstanding debts from your past, as well as any debts incurred as a result of your crime.
Paying bills on time for any utility contracts and cell phone service you may have will also help re-establish a good credit score.
For expert help at no charge, you can speak with a counselor at The National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Their counselors will help you develop a plan to safely rebuild your credit, and they can also help you find the best way to deal with your debts.
What Housing Assistance Can You Get?
Leaving prison without knowing where you are going to live is a major source of anxiety for soon-to-be-released inmates. Unless your friends or family are willing to offer you a place to stay, you will need to find safe accommodation.
This will often be transitional housing or halfway housing.
Transitional housing is short-term housing for people in crisis who would otherwise be homeless. The length of stay can vary from a few weeks to 24 months.
Access to transitional housing will take care of your need for asylum and will give you an address that you can use to open a bank account and apply for jobs.
Some halfway houses also provide food for released inmates along with some re-entry assistance.
Once you find a stable job, you can start looking for your own place.
The Salvation Army is a nationwide charity that provides transitional housing and other services that can help ex-offenders re-enter society.
Another charity you can talk to about your housing needs is Catholic Charities USA. Visit the Find Help page on their website, then use the interactive map to find a list of Catholic organizations in your area. This charity also helps with food and can help you find a job.
If you have not yet left prison, talk to your counselor, prison chaplain, or other prison service professionals to see if they can refer you to more residential resources.
After your release, you may be connected with a social worker. If this is the case for you, your social worker will be able to help you find a place to live.
Education & Skills
If you are still in the justice system, make sure you take every opportunity to expand your skills and education. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that nearly 70% of state prison inmates do not have a high school diploma.
Without this basic education certificate, many doors to good jobs will be firmly closed to you, so it pays to make the effort to secure your GED.
Difficult family circumstances may prevent you from earning a high school diploma, or the school classroom may not be a good fit for you, but that doesn’t stop you from taking advantage of the opportunity to acquire this most important qualification now. Shouldn’t come. Enroll in an inmate GED course as soon as possible.
And if you’ve already been released from prison, there are programs you can study for to take the GED exam.
The first resource you should use is your probation or parole service, which will help you access the right courses. Alternatively, look for state programs that offer GED courses for adults.
Your state or city’s re-entry website should also be able to point you in the right direction. Passing a basic computer skills course will also be a great addition to your resume.
Of course, education is not limited to diplomas, and having in-demand skills will make it much easier for you to find work. While you are in prison, find out what vocational courses are available at your facility and sign up.
For example, you can train to be a mechanic, or a chef, or take a stationary course.
Finding A Job When You Leave Prison
Because there is little financial support for released inmates, you will need to find a job as soon as possible.
Finding a job is difficult for people fresh out of the justice system. Many employers ask about criminal convictions on job applications and most large employers conduct background checks that will reveal a criminal past.
However, there is some good news. So far, 35 states prohibit employers from asking about convictions on job application forms. And a new nationwide initiative called the Second Chance Business Coalition is working to remove barriers to employment for people with criminal records.
With several major companies already signed up, your employment prospects are much better than they were a few years ago.
Some of the companies involved in the Second Chance initiative are Kroger, Best Buy, CVS Health, Home Depot, Target, McDonald’s, Walgreens, Lowe’s and Walmart.
These companies aren’t guaranteed to hire you, but they won’t automatically reject you because of your beliefs.
Second Chance companies look at your skills, your character, and the nature of your beliefs when they evaluate you for a position. And in many cases, it makes good business sense for them to hire ex-felons because of the tax benefits involved.
You can find a full list of existing employers by visiting their website, and it makes sense to apply to these companies first when you start your job search.
If you’re eligible for SNAP benefits, you should also ask the agency about their Employment and Training Program, which helps low-income people improve their skills.
Financial Assistance For Released Prisoners Eligible For Social Security Payments
Many leave prison with significant health problems or disabilities that qualify them for Social Security assistance. These scholarships are the primary form of financial assistance for released prisoners and are subject to eligibility rules.
Social Security Disability Insurance
If you were receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) before you went to prison, you can start receiving payments the month after your official release.
To get your payments back on track, contact the Social Security Administration as soon as possible and tell them you’ve officially been released from prison and want to claim your disability benefits.
You will need to send them a copy of your release paperwork and they cannot process your claim until they receive the paperwork, so get those documents to them without delay.
If you developed a disability or condition that meets SSDI eligibility requirements while you were in prison, contact your Social Security office to begin the claims process.
However, you should know that those living in halfway houses are not eligible for payments.
Supplemental Security Income
If you were receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) before you went to prison, you may be able to reactivate your claim if you were in prison for less than 12 months.
If your prison term was longer than 12 months, you will need to make a new claim and go through the approval process. Contact your local Social Security office to start the claim process.
Once your claim is approved, you will also be enrolled in the Medicaid program.
Food Stamps & Food Pantries
You may be eligible for food stamps after your release from prison, depending on your circumstances. Food stamps are issued through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You will need a Social Security number to apply for SNAP benefits.
Currently, individuals with serious drug convictions may be required to pass a drug test to access SNAP benefits.
As a single adult under the age of 50, your eligibility for food stamps is limited to 3 months of assistance in any 36-month period. And to be approved for SNAP, you must be able to prove that you are working at least 80 hours per month, or participating in a work or training program.
SNAP benefits are means tested and your total household income will determine if you qualify for assistance.
While federal laws state that SNAP applications must be processed within 30 days, emergency applications must be processed within 7 days. To get the help you need, make sure you apply within the 7-day rule.
Some states have partnerships that allow inmates to apply for SNAP benefits after being released from prison so that they have access to food stamps on release.
Food pantries are run by churches and other charitable groups.
United Way provides support nationwide and you can find your nearest food pantry by searching online for “United Way” followed by your city or state.
Another way to find a food pantry is to use the Find a Food Bank page at feedingamerica.org. Use the interactive map to find major food banks in your area, then visit these websites to see where your closet food pantry is located.
A small amount of financial assistance for released prisoners comes in the form of gate money. The amounts involved are small, though, and in some states will only be enough to cover a modest bag of groceries.
If you get an overpayment of $100 or more, spend it wisely. A good purchase would be a cell phone with prepaid minutes so you can stay in touch with your parole officer, social worker, and any other professionals involved in your release.
Cell Phone Assistance
While a cell phone is essential for job applicants these days, released inmates may qualify for subsidized phone and Internet access through The Lifeline program.
If you are in the SNAP program, receive SSI benefits or have an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty level, you can apply for The Lifeline program.
Different phone carriers offer plans under the program and you should shop around to see which has the best overall rates before committing to a plan.
How Churches And Charities Can Help
Local churches can be a great resource for released inmates.
By providing basic support through food banks, as well as through their donations of clothing and home furnishings, churches are communities. And there are local business owners in these communities who may be willing to hire you.
Other members of the church will be pillars of the local community, and once they get to know you through your regular attendance at services, or your participation in church events, they will regard you as an important role. Will be able to work.
Take every opportunity you can to build your network. With a wider network, you’ll hear about more job opportunities and rental housing, and you’ll have people actively looking for those opportunities for you.
And don’t underestimate the importance of the social and emotional support that being a church member can provide.
Other non-faith-based charities can provide education and skills training, addictions, emergency housing, food parcels, legal aid, debt management, and help with negotiating bureaucratic tables.
Often when you contact a charity, they will be networked with other organizations in your area and will be able to help you access a wider range of services.
None of these charities will knock on your door. It’s up to you to find whatever resources you can, then make phone calls, send emails, attend community outreach events, hunt down local soup kitchens, and knock on doors.
Don’t let pride keep you from asking for help. Everyone needs help getting back on their feet at some point, and for you, that time is now.
The world may seem cold and impersonal, but there are many good-hearted people doing everything they can to help people down on their luck. You just need to try to find them.
Frequent Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can You Get SSI For Post Incarceration Syndrome?
To qualify for SSI, your condition prevents you from working on a regular basis. Mental health impairments that qualify for SSI are listed under Section 12 of Social Security under Disability Assessments on the Social Security Administration’s website. Eligibility criteria are complex and you will need medical proof of your condition to be able to claim.
What Is Post Incarceration Syndrome?
Post-incarceration syndrome (PCI) is a condition that affects the mental health of people in prison. Symptoms of this condition include PTSD, antisocial behavior, and personality changes as a result of institutionalization. Treatment can help people manage their condition and start functioning normally again.
What Help Do Prisoners Get When Released?
Prisoners may receive a small amount of gate money when they are released from prison. Parole officers and social workers will be able to help secure housing, as will many charities and organizations involved in re-entry programs.
Released inmates may be eligible for food stamps and other food assistance is available through food pantries. Social Security-eligible inmates can make claims for SSDI and SSI after release.
What Happens When Prisoners Get Released?
When an inmate completes their sentence, they are released from prison with their personal property, a small payment called gate money, and a bus ticket if they have no other means of getting home. Is.
Ex-offenders may be required to maintain contact with a parole officer or social worker and may be required to live in a halfway house as a condition of their parole.
When you get out of prison, you will face significant challenges in adjusting to normal life and taking care of your basic needs.
Although financial aid for released inmates is limited, there is other support to help you with housing and food, and many companies have joined the Second Chance Initiative to remove barriers that felons face. prevent them from finding the jobs they need to get their lives back on track. .