Many of us have been subjected to popular images of violent men and women imprisoned across the United States. We often hear about the punitive measures taken to keep criminals locked away for the sake of safe communities, however, we rarely hear about the punishment people receive once their sentences have been met. According to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, nearly 1 in 6 people in North Carolina have a criminal record. Stigmas surrounding imprisonment negatively affect the rate of opportunities available for a great deal of members in our community attempting to re-enter society.
Upon receiving a grant from the Charlotte Community Scholars program, a fellow researcher and I partnered with a local coalition seeking to develop an integrated response to the needs of those with criminal records. The Re-Entry partners of Mecklenburg (RPM) aim to reduce rates of recidivism by connecting citizens to job, housing, and education resources. With 41% of offenders falling into recidivism, a need for community support is evident. While RPM aims to provide support, finding community partners with education, housing, and education opportunities can often consist of hurdles due to a lack of trust caused by a socialized sense of otherness. Throughout the summer of 2016, members of RPM, event attendees, existing organization partners, and potential partners participated in interviews that led to a prototypical communication plan. Presenting statistics that re-integrate the number of individuals affected by adverse reactions to criminal records provides a ground to compel action and involvement.