Lauren Johnson and Ruby Welch write on Second Chance Month for Ms. Magazine

April 21, 2024

Lauren Johnson (Leading with Conviction™ 2016) and Ruby Welch (Leading with Conviction™ 2023) write about Second Chance Month at Ms. Magazine:

“Despite only being about 5 percent of the global population, the U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country, making up more than 20 percent of the world’s entire prison population. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, we see more than 600,000 people released from U.S. prisons each year. This April, Second Chance Month, is an opportunity for us to bring to light the difficulties for those seeking a successful return back to society.

“The everyday struggles of life multiply ten-fold for formerly incarcerated individuals once released. These barriers can include revoked voting rights, limited access to education, lack of job opportunities and mental health challenges. Successfully addressing these challenges is critical for improving outcomes and reducing recidivism, which affects more than two-thirds of formerly incarcerated individuals within three years of their release.

We need the people closest to the problem at the center of our solutions.

“For these reasons and many more, criminal justice advocate Ruby Welch is working to ensure that the opportunity for a second chance awaits everyone on the other side. Welch spent seven years behind bars in Arkansas and now uses her second chance story to inspire others about the possibilities for life after prison.

“Incarcerated women in particular face unique challenges compared to their male counterparts, and their rate of entry has accelerated at twice the pace of men over the past three decades. Limited access to feminine hygiene products or being placed in solitary confinement during pregnancy can contribute to significant—sometimes fatal—health problems that are often left unaddressed.

“‘I am not an eternal criminal,’ Welch said in the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Barber of Little Rock. ‘I did seven years, six months and five days on a 30-year sentence and I’m still not free. Most incarcerated people, especially those with longer sentences, come out with no money and are sometimes separated from strong support systems. People find themselves struggling to obtain basic essentials like toothbrushes, toothpaste and a place to lay their heads at night.’

“Welch was instrumental in passing legislation in her home state of Arkansas and 14 other states, ultimately helping to improve the lives of more than 36,000 incarcerated women. …

“The 2008 Second Chance Act and its reauthorization in 2018 granted up to $165 million in federal grants to state, local and tribal government agencies and nonprofits to fund initiatives that assist those released from prisons and jails. These types of policies and programs support successful reentry while strengthening the economy, reducing recidivism, and increasing public safety.

“If we want to see people do better, we must continue to build systems that encourage and incentivize people to do better. To do that, we need the people closest to the problem at the center of our solutions.”

Read the full article at

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