Rehabilitation—the act of restoring someone to health or normal life through training and therapy—is ostensibly the goal of our criminal justice system, yet, as a society, we have made it incredibly difficult for those who have been incarcerated to turn their lives around when they are released.

Formerly incarcerated people often have the burden of starting their lives from scratch—trying to find housing and an income—after they’re released, but they’re also carrying the weight of their experiences from jail or prison.

“The general public doesn’t understand how dehumanizing the system is and how traumatizing it is,” says Chelsie Nicholson, co-chair of the Community Action Partners Alliance of Long Beach and the city’s new interim reentry coordinator.

In California, studies have shown the prison system fails to rehabilitate most inmates, with recidivism rates long hovering around 50%. The key to changing that is making sure those who are reentering our society have access to services that will reduce their chances of becoming repeat offenders, according to Nicholson.

On this episode of “The Word” podcast, Nicholson tells us how her organization and others in Long Beach are trying to change perceptions of people who were formerly incarcerated and give them the tools they need to succeed.

For more information on the CAP Alliance, you can visit their website here.

Editor’s note: The text of this article has been updated to show Nicholson is the interim reentry coordinator.

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