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Income program helps those formerly incarcerated stay out of prison

Several hundreds and thousands of formerly incarcerated people are released back into society each year — but not without costs.
Income program helps those formerly incarcerated stay out of prison
Posted at 2:46 PM, Nov 30, 2023

The United States locks up an average of 1 million people per year. This revolving door means that several hundreds of thousands are released back into society each year — but not without costs.

Tydricka Lewis grew up on the streets of Durham, North Carolina.

"I was incarcerated for six years and four months. My total term was nine years and nine months," said Lewis.

Once released, she worked a few jobs, eventually landing one with the Durham Community Safety Department. That's when she learned about a guaranteed income program designed for those formerly incarcerated.

According to the Mayors For Guaranteed Income website, 31 cities are participating in a guaranteed income program. Programs in two of those cities — Durham, North Carolina and Gainesville, Florida — are specific to those formerly incarcerated.

Tydricka received $600 a month for one year. She used the money to make her car payments.

"I'm a mother, three children. It's kind of like I am the person that get up and go to work," Lewis said.

Kevin Scott is the program director of Just Income in Gainesville, "A lot of people don't realize is that after you've been in prison, when you come home, you've got an extraordinary amount of debts alongside your diminished opportunities to find work, to find housing you are expected to pay for."

He tells us those additional costs of living can include supervision, ankle monitors, drug testing, classes, polygraphs and miscellaneous court fees.

"And if you can't make those payments, you will be reincarcerated for being too poor to be free," Scott added.

While the Durham program is based on city funds, Just Income in Gainesville is private. In its first year, 115 people who were formerly incarcerated were randomly selected from an applicant pool to receive $1,000 in the first month, followed by $600 a month for the next eleven months — no strings attached. Next year, the University of Pennsylvania will release their findings on the impact.

Initial data shows recipients used the extra money primarily on retail sales and services. Following that: food and groceries.

"And so what we've seen in pilots all around the country is that when people have a little extra cushion, they tend to invest in themselves, like employment goes up, homelessness goes down, well-being goes up, recidivism goes down," Scott said.

For Tydricka it was just the help she needed to put herself in a positive frame of mind, "It has helped me unravel the anger. It has helped me view things differently. I have my own three children that I do not want to grow up angry due to what life experiences has brought upon them."

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