A Common Sense Approach to Improving Circumstances for High-Risk Adults
Men newly released from prison often have troubled histories that include some mix of drug or alcohol addiction, mental illness, chronic unemployment and homelessness. Many are not first-time offenders. For such men, settling into society after incarceration is challenging, particularly securing and maintaining employment and stable housing. According to a national study, seven out of 10 men released from prison find themselves behind bars again within three years. This failure incurs tremendous costs—both economic and social.
In Minneapolis/St. Paul, a group of health and human service providers recognized that men released from prison were not getting the support they needed to succeed on the outside. They formed Better Futures Enterprises (BFE), formerly known as The Network for Better Futures, in order to give ex-offenders a chance to become productive and valued members of society. By setting high expectations while providing direct access to the resources needed to meet those expectations— including jobs, affordable housing and health insurance—BFE creates new pathways for ex-offenders, who are now able to contribute to society.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation views BFE as an innovative approach to a challenge that confronts communities nationwide: reducing the economic and social costs of high-risk adults with histories that include some mix of incarceration, substance abuse, mental illness, chronic unemployment and/or homelessness. Current funding aims to establish BFE as a national model for integrating high-risk men into their communities and to replicate the model in three additional cities. RWJF is also funding an evaluation of BFE’s effectiveness.