A little bit less, a little bit late.
TDW talks with Kaly and Aiasha of Root & Rebound, an Oakland-based nonprofit that works across CA to support people in reentry from prison and jail — as well as their families, communities and advocates — to navigate and overcome the disenfranchisement caused by mass incarceration and over-criminalization in the United States today.
Please note that nothing said on this episode should be construed as accurate legal information or legal advice. What you hear today are personal opinions and not the opinions of Root & Rebound as an organization. Aiasha is a Deputy Director at Root & Rebound working all things fundraising, communications, and impact measurement. Kaly is a current law student with experience interning for legal services groups committed to criminal justice reform and reentry support. Any errors or omissions are her own and not reflections of the law on this topic. She has never been, and is not employed by Root & Rebound.
There’s a fair chance unless you’ve been through it yourself or supported someone through the process, you don’t know how truly difficult it is to reenter society after incarceration. TV and movies like “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Orange is the New Black,” and “Oz” attempt to help you understand, but no amount of media can prepare you for the reality of trying to open a bank account, get a job, manage your overdue court debts or child support, or even get a cell phone with the stigma and isolation that mass incarceration produces. For most people coming out of prison and jail, all they’re looking for is a second chance and real opportunity to do better.
It’s an immense issue: At any one time, nearly 6.9 million people nationally are on probation, in jail, in prison, or on parole. Each year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons. Another 10 million cycle through local jails across the country. More than two-thirds of prisoners are rearrested within 3 years of their release and half are re-incarcerated. All of this leaves 1 in 3 people today with a criminal record.
At the center of its work, Root & Rebound has developed and circulates a comprehensive guide, called the “Roadmap to Reentry” to help people navigate everything from basic needs post-release including food and cell phones, to formerly incarcerated people’s legal rights regarding employment, housing, and education.
Root & Rebound is part of a recent wave of nonprofits, political leaders, and businesses all coming together across the U.S. to reverse the trends of mass incarceration and championing the fight for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families. Through education, trainings, a reentry legal hotline (the first of its kind in the U.S.) and prison letter writing service, this Oakland-based organization helps their clients across California maneuver a convoluted system of hurdles and legal jargon barring them from even the simplest needs.
There’s no shortage of frustrations for a person who doesn’t know where to go or who to ask. Halfway houses are expensive and often mandatory. Parole officers often impose their own rules and conditions on you, far beyond what the law mandates. You might not be able to come back home to your county and live with your family. You likely are mandated to pay criminal justice court-related fees, asking overwhelmingly poor defendants to pay restitution, administration fees for operating the courts, DAs offices, Public Defenders’ offices, and parole and probation supervision, and penalty fines and fees as further punishment. You might not even be able to leave the state you were incarcerated in once you are released under supervision, even if it’s hundreds of miles from anyone you know. You can lose the right to vote, sit on a jury, and participate in the political process that directly impacts your life.
Society has set up a mindset about formerly incarcerated people: that they’ve proved themselves unworthy of a fresh start at life. Root & Rebound is taking the steps to change that perspective and doomed path that leads right back to prison, homelessness, joblessness, and intergenerational poverty, and instead, help lead people back to their place in the sun. To date, this nonprofit has served more than 16,000 people through its programs. That number is ever rising.
For more information, you can check out their website, or follow them on Twitter, Facebook,, and Instagram.