Parole re-entry guide helps freed former convicts face mean streets, lean job prospects

There's nothing quite like the transition from doing hard time to looking for a job in hard times. Every year, Colorado's prison system sends about 10,000 felons back to society -- and roughly two-thirds of them end up back in prison within three years. In most cases, their return is not due to new crimes but for falling short of parole conditions, such as failing to find employment, a place to live or make court-ordered payments for restitution and treatment.

The jobless rate for people with a prison record is estimated to be between 40 and 60 percent. That alone makes a pretty good case for the just-released new edition of Getting On After Getting Out: A Re-entry Guide for Colorado, a compendium of resources and advice for parolees published by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

When it was first issued in 2007, the "GO Guide" was one of the first efforts of its kind in the country, assembling essential info on everything from how to get a driver's license to how to tap into community groups that assist with job-hunting skills and leads -- stuff that parolees previously had to collect from a dozen different bus stops while their funds dwindled into dust. The new edition features an expanded list of agencies that can help with everything from housing to education to health care -- and cut into the $80-$100 million a year taxpayers spend on prison costs as a result of parole failures.

"This guide is more than just a list of community resources," says Christie Donner, one of the guide's authors and founder of CCJRC. "It's trying to address some of the re-entry barriers that have been brought to our attention throughout the years."

Foundation grants have allowed the organization to distribute thousands of copies of the guide to state prisoners for free. Individual copies can also be ordered for $10 from the CCJRC website of by calling 303-825-0122.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Senate Bill 241: Is Colorado ready to fix parole's revolving door?"

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