Released From Prison

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Society can be daunting for a person released from prison. After years behind bars, inmates returning to society must face the weight of their mistakes and the lingering effects of having a tainted record on file. 

If not correctly assisted and guided, an inmate recently released from prison may not be welcomed with the “fresh start” they dreamed of but, instead, be faced with the harsh courtroom that is society. Because of this, it’s crucial to know what problems inmates face when they are released. 

How can ex-inmates have a chance to regain their lives when their criminal records loom over their shoulders whenever they apply for work? Are there any services that help inmates released from prison in their reentry to society?

This article will discuss prison release and how it affects an inmate. You’ll understand that getting out of prison is a step towards reentry into the community, yet some may get stuck on that first step.

Also, you’ll have more information about the status of prison release in the United States and the plight of ex-inmates as they try to fit into society.

A prison release should be the start of a new life for an incarcerated individual. However, that person comes into society not with a clean slate but with records that won’t go away quite quickly.

You can have your records expunged, but that’s not a simple process. You must gather documents and records to make an expungement application easier.

If you plan to act on your criminal record, you can visit, an accessible lookup site, to get the necessary records. You can also access contact information, arrest records, and other documents that might be required when you start a new life outside prison. 

What Happens to Released Prisoners Once They Get Out?

A prison release is undoubtedly a significant event in an inmate’s life. However, some may find it difficult to adjust to society completely. Many strings are attached to a criminal record, and the effects of such a record can be problematic even after release. 

Some previously incarcerated people may have difficulty adapting to normalcy, especially after a lengthy prison sentence. Upon release, they reenter society which may introduce them to people who may not be as accepting of their past.

What Is It Called When You’re Released From Prison?

The criminal justice system in the United States has a few legal ways of getting inmates released from prison. Parole and probation are privileges select inmates may have to get out of prison under specific conditions. A person under parole, in which the person must fulfill conditions to be released, is a parolee. In contrast, a person under probation is a probationer. 

Meanwhile, probation is the act of suspending the sentence of a convicted person and giving them freedom during good behavior under a probation officer’s supervision. 

Inmates are also released after they’ve served their sentence in full. In the media, the terms “ex-inmate, ex-convict, or ex-prisoner” have been used to call people released from prison. Though these terms describe their status, some regard these terms as stigmatizing and thus use alternatives like the following:

  • A person with prior justice system involvement
  • A previously incarcerated person
  • A person with justice history 

How Many Prisoners Are Released From Each State’s Prisons and Jails Every Year?

Sometimes, reports and figures focus on the prison population in the United States rather than how many are released. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) estimates that 10,000 individuals are released weekly from jails and prisons in the U.S. An estimated 650,000 previously incarcerated people regain their freedom yearly. 

Releases From Prisons and Jails in 2019 by State or Other Jurisdiction

Here is a breakdown of the releases made from prisons and jails in 2019. These figures come from the Bureau of Justice Statistics from its 2019 report. The BJS based its information on the figures provided by the National Prisoner Statistics and Census of Jails of 2019. 

State Prisons  Jails Total release
Alabama 12,920 285,461 298,381
Alaska 1,714 5,284 6,998
Arizona 12,933 189,370 202,303
Arkansas 10,259 170,060 180,319
California 37,462 949,971 987,433
Colorado 9,840 217,597 227,437
Connecticut 4,473 N/A 4,473
Delaware 2,269 N/A 2,269
District of Columbia N/A* 10,473 10,473
Federal (BOP) 50,692 N/A 50,692
Florida 29,737 656,962 686,699
Georgia 17,200 576,856 594,056
Hawaii 1,654 N/A 1,654
Idaho 4,416 70,068 74,484
Illinois 23,791 253,962 277,753
Indiana 10,988 243,482 254,470
Iowa 7,114 133,703 140,817
Kansas 6,007 159,332 165,339
Kentucky 19,580 291,455 311,035
Louisiana 16,835 249,332 266,167
Maine 755 31,032 31,787
Maryland 7,408 79,185 86,593
Massachusetts 2,362 59,477 61,839
Michigan 11,440 280,341 291,781
Minnesota 6,964 201,329 208,293
Mississippi 6,971 149,942 156,913
Missouri 18,533 264,369 282,902
Montana 2,475 42,423 44,898
Nebraska 2,336 66,855 69,191
Nevada 6,646 157,020 163,666
New Hampshire 1,339 22,417 23,756
New Jersey 8,182 118,749 126,931
New Mexico 3,528 112,716 116,244
New York 20,791 167,614 188,405
North Carolina 17,106 382,070 399,176
North Dakota 1,358 46,509 47,867
Ohio 20,275 396,059 416,334
Oklahoma 9,365 207,432 216,797
Oregon 5,870 182,921 188,791
Pennsylvania 17,897 201,432 219,329
Rhode Island 720 N/A 720
South Carolina 6,208 181,834 188,042
South Dakota 4,576 66,673 71,249
Tennessee 14,205 397,931 412,136
Texas 78,119 993,910 1,072,029
Utah 4,017 96,963 100,980
Vermont 2,528 N/A 2,528
Virginia 12,602 284,217 296,819
Washington 24,455 266,757 291,212
West Virginia 4,124 45,942 50,066
Wisconsin 5,820 207,820 213,640
Wyoming 1,010 28,422 29,432
Total 610,235 10,203,729 10,813,964

District of Columbia is part of the federal government system, and its inmates are federal prisoners. The Bureau of Prisons’ report of prisoner release of 2019 states that in the said year, D.C. released 1,717 inmates.

Looking for Releases to Your Local Community?

Data for release from prison terms and reentry of previously incarcerated inmates can be found directly at your local prison or jail facility. You can check facility or inmate locators like to contact prison or jail facilities to get updates about inmate releases in your local community.  

You can also use the Department of Homeland Security VINE (victim information notification exchange) system, which allows people to track inmates’ release from prison or jails. Victims of crimes or witnesses can use this system to get updates on changes in the custody of inmates for free. 

Looking for a More Recent Estimate of Jail Releases in Your State?

There are a few sites where you can look for jail releases per state through their facility or inmate locators. However, if you want a handy website to access whenever needed, visit 

You can access its inmate locator, which collates and gives you direct links to a prison or jail’s list of incarcerated individuals and their release dates. 

Thousands Were Released From Prison During COVID. The Results Are Shocking

During the onset of COVID-19, prison facilities started to place inmates who were high-health risks in “home confinement.” The decision released thousands from the confines of prison cells, some returning to their homes and loved ones.

However, as the pandemic wanes and the state of emergency issued by the government ends, prisoners with lengthier sentences may risk returning to prison. 

Some may fear that the sudden release of prisoners from prison may increase crime rates due to recidivism or a person’s tendency to return to crime. However, according to the reports provided by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the DOJ, this was not the case. 

During the pandemic, the DOJ ordered placing more than 11,000 inmates in federal prisons in home confinement. However, the BOP reported that out of the thousands of inmates released into home confinement, only 17 committed a new crime, of which only one was a violent offense. 

Banned From Jobs: People Released From Prison Fight Laws That Keep Punishing Them

A genuine concern for inmates released from prison is their ability to become self-sustaining in society. Some may encounter barriers to employment, especially with their records, on file and ready for everyone to see.

Reentry programs have been set in place to assist prisoners intended for release to adjust to society and experience a successful reentry. However, the stigma surrounding ex-inmates may reduce their chances of getting hired.

A simple background check can quickly reveal the past criminal record of an inmate, which may be a factor for employers not hiring them. 

A recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows that around 60% of released prisoners are unemployed. Some previously incarcerated individuals can’t land a secure job after four years of release.

On the other hand, some get one to four jobs within four years post-release, showing that inmates usually struggle to find secure and long-term employment. 

The Formerly Incarcerated Are Helping Newly Released Prisoners Cope With Life After Prison

Some former prisoners may have a loving family waiting for them. However, in some cases, recently released inmates have no family members to come home to. Some may have moved or made it clear to the prisoner that they don’t want to have any connection with them after their release. 

There are also cases where former inmates are legally prohibited from returning home to their wives, children, or families. In these scenarios, people released from prison often go homeless without money. They may revert to their criminal ways to make ends meet. 

However, some former inmates take it upon themselves to assist other ex-inmates in reentering society smoothly. Some of this assistance comes from faith-based groups or welfare organizations focused on helping anyone in need. 

Chicken and Egg

Another problem faced by prisoners released from jail is getting affordable housing. However, to get affordable housing, one must provide a paycheck. Yet, to have a paycheck, one must have a stable job, which many ex-inmates struggle with as employers may avoid hiring people with criminal records. 

It’s a chicken-and-egg dilemma that may hamper the chance for a released prisoner to start a new life in society. Religious and welfare-focused organizations may offer ways of providing housing and jobs, but they can only do so much. 

Easing Community Reentry

Reentry is not as easy as it may sound, especially if you’re in the shoes of a released prisoner. They face guilt, consequences, and the stigma of incarceration. 

The BOP states that programs for reentry start on the first day of incarceration. It means that everything done in correctional facilities gears toward the possible reentry of an offender into society. The reentry program intensifies during the last 18 months of an offender’s sentence. 

The BOP also places inmates in Residential Reentry Centers (RRC) before release to assist them in adjusting to community life and eventually finding employment. In some cases, offenders receive release gratuity, clothing, or even money for transportation expenses to their release destination. 

Therapeutic Complexities

The stresses of incarceration and the possible dismay released prisoners may feel after their reentry to society may result in mental health issues. The risk factors for recidivism may also increase when reentry services can’t provide adequate therapy to help inmates cope with their new environment. 

What Are the Services Available to People Newly Released From Prison?

Many services focus on providing help for newly released individuals. These reentry programs assist freshly released inmates and give them support and aid. At the same time, they try to adjust to society. Here are some of the services ex-prisoners can use to find the necessary support: 

  • Drug Reentry Alternative Model (DREAM Court): This program helps inmates with substance abuse cases get their charges dismissed. 
  • Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP): This program helps released inmates get a “fresh start” by teaching them how to become entrepreneurs despite their circumstances.  

Prisoners and Prisoner Re-entry

As you have read earlier, the BOP states that a prisoner’s reentry plan starts on the day of incarceration. Correctional facilities are places for rehabilitation and reform, which should result in people who may have swerved against the law walking on a straight path eventually. Prisoner reentry programs are a crucial factor in maintaining public safety.

How Atrocious Prison Conditions Make Us All Less Safe

One sad reality for people managed by the criminal justice system is inadequate facilities or professional expertise to encourage rehabilitation and correction. In some cases, inmates don’t get essential health services from healthcare providers. 

A long-term study by the Department of Justice reveals that from 2005 to 2014, around 68% of released inmates were rearrested due to recidivism within three years. A jump to 83% was seen in incarcerated people rearrested within nine years of release. 

Prisons may not be designed for the successful reentry of inmates into society. Hence, atrocious prison conditions may result in an unsafe community in the long run. 

Adnan Syed, Subject of ‘Serial,’ Is Released From Prison

If you have watched Serial, a television series focusing on the trial of Adnan Syed, the series shows a seeming flaw in the criminal justice system and a “systemic problem,” which should be corrected. 

Adnan Syed was convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 2000. He spent over 23 years in prison, only to have his sentence overturned due to evidence pointing to another killer. 

Syed’s case may not be isolated. According to many people who have pointed out the lapses in the country’s prisons, wrongful convictions, and systemic programs, many prisoners may also be victims of a system with problems.


  1. What are the different ways for an inmate or incarcerated person to be released from prison?

According to this article, inmates can be released from prison by parole, probation, and when they complete their prison terms. For more details, refer to the section titled What Is It Called When You’re Released From Prison?

  1. What happens before an incarcerated person is released in any of those ways?
  • A person on parole is released from prison when they adhere to the set terms. Parole is usually given after an inmate has served much of their sentence.
  • A person on probation is an alternative punishment for those who fit the requirements. 
  • A person who completes a prison term is released and often goes through reentry programs set up by the prison facility. 
  1. Do inmates receive money when they’re released?

Some states provide “gate money” to prisoners released from prison. The amount of this “gate money” depends on the state. In places like California, $200 is often given to inmates as they start their life outside prison. 

  1. Do inmates receive anything that shows they have completed their sentence?”

Usually, a prisoner released from incarceration gets a “discharge certificate.” They can get this certificate from the sentencing judge or the state’s Department of Corrections. 


1. Prisoners and Prisoner Re-Entry
2. Since you asked: How many people are released from each state’s prisons and jails every year?
3. Thousands were released from prison because of Covid. Will they have to return?
4. Reentry Programs
5. “Serial” podcast subject Adnan Syed released from prison after judge vacates murder conviction

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