Community Voices

Returning Citizens Providers

In June 2020, DC Health planned and facilitated two online community engagement sessions for around 10 providers who serve returning citizens. Using the whole-person health framework, facilitators asked providers what was happening in the lives of returning citizens, including identifying the top concerns, service gaps, and strengths of the community.

Concerns

  • Affordable housing is a huge issue. There is not enough supply to meet the demand. Staying with family or friends is an option for some but not all.
  • The experience of being incarcerated is traumatizing, and there are not enough mental health services in the region, especially for people in the Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities.
  • There is still stigma associated with seeking mental health services, especially in Black and Latino/a/x communities. However, participants noted that more people are seeking mental health services during the COVID pandemic, so that may help to normalize seeking help.
  • Many have very few options for employment.
  • They find it hard to trust people when they are released. It takes a while to build trust for them, even with family members.

Health

  • Returning citizens may reveal their HIV status to a community-based organization before they reveal it to their families.
  • Returning citizens come home with only 30 days’ worth of medications.
  • Access to benefits after release is challenging.
  • It is important that returning citizens can engage with providers that are culturally competent.

Additional Challenges

  • People feel as if there are only intake and referral services. There need to be more organizations that actually provide services, instead of referring them to other facilities.
  • There need to be additional older adult services for returning citizens.
  • People feel as if they are a case study. They want to be treated as an individual, not a number.
  • There is a need for family reunification services.
  • Transportation is a major issue in Prince George’s County, Maryland, affecting job searches and compliance with appointments.

Strengths

  • Community-based programs and government agencies are partnering to build a reentry network that provides high-quality support services to returning citizens.
  • Despite the trauma that comes with being incarcerated, returning citizens are resilient and resourceful.
  • Community-based organizations are building partnerships with employers to hire returning citizens. Community-based organizations also investigate why their client wasn’t hired so that they can use the feedback to better improve their training services.
  • The Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizens Affairs is working to increase mental health services.

Solutions


What can DC Health do to support returning citizens?

  • Create more wraparound services to manage the needs of returning citizens, with better collaboration between community-based organizations and government agencies.
  • Develop more culturally competent providers to provide mental health services.
  • Get providers to look at the whole family unit when considering services. It is important to keep the family bond strong while the person is incarcerated and after release.
  • Begin services for returning citizens before they are released. Services should include a stipend and basic hygiene products.
  • Increase understanding that being incarcerated is traumatic.
  • Increase collaboration with the probation officer. They have the best access to the client but are not too concerned with health and social services.
  • Consider the intersection of gender, race, religion, and sexuality of returning citizens and their unique needs.
DC Ends HIV logo