(PRWEB) May 4, 2007 — Each year, state and federal prisons release more than 600,000 offenders back into society. National statistics indicate that within just three years of their release more than two-thirds of them will be arrested again and more than half will be back behind bars.
Now, offenders and the professionals and counselors who work with them can access the guidance they'll need to reduce such recidivism statistics. JIST's empowering new video series Countdown to Freedom, takes offenders step-by-step through their release and reintegration into society and discusses some of the main challenges offenders face throughout the process.
"The problem is ninety percent of the people who are released are, in essence, going to go back to the same neighborhood, the same situation that they left when they came out. And in many cases, it's worse than when they went in," says Johnie L. Underwood, President of Underwood Best Consulting Concepts, a featured speaker in Countdown to Freedom.
Recently, professionals and counselors working with offenders have heightened their efforts to reduce recidivism rates across the country. A significant part of this effort is dedicated to helping offenders identify and overcome relapse triggers. In the past, drugs and alcohol were often the only things blamed for causing a former offender to fall back into bad behavior. Today, new programs and materials for offenders, such as the Countdown to Freedom series, are beginning to teach offenders that a variety of factors contribute to their struggle to successfully reintegrate into society.
"You don't have to be addicted to drugs or alcohol to suffer a relapse. And even good things can trigger bad behaviors," says J.T. Ferguson, Jr., Executive Director of PACE/OAR, in Countdown to Freedom.
John Smith, an associate of Ferguson's, says triggers can be physical, environmental, or mind-driven. Physical triggers are the easiest for a person to identify, such as drugs, alcohol and sex. Environmental factors such as people, places and activities or mind-driven factors such as criminal thinking or mental health can be more difficult for an offender to recognize and have only recently been considered critical in the reintegration process for offenders.
"Our instincts tell us that good things like family and friends should help us–not hurt us. The things most familiar to us should bring us back to comfort–not temptation. We want to believe that we go back home to pick up our lives–not to repeat our mistakes," says Ferguson.
The key to preventing these relapse triggers from becoming a barrier to their success, is for offenders to be self-aware and to ask for help. In Countdown to Freedom, Ferguson and Smith advise offenders to continue counseling and therapy; to keep supportive company in their family, friends, and acquaintances; and to find ways to build self-esteem.
"(To prevent relapse) You have to be on guard and you have to be prepared to respond to your triggers with actions that will keep you on the right path," says Ferguson.
Countdown to Freedom is available from the publisher (www.jist.com or ). For a free DVD sample of the video series or to speak with the director, contact Natalie Ostrom.
JIST, America's Career Publisher, is the leading publisher of job search, career, occupational information, life skills and character education books, workbooks, assessments, videos and software.