HELENA — Each year across the U.S., an estimated 600,000 people will re-enter society after serving time in state or federal prison. However, reentry is not easy, even for past offenders who want to get their lives back on track.
And as many as 9,000,000 will cycle through county jails. Government statics show two-thirds will be re-arrested within three years, with half becoming re-incarcerated.
In Helena, a prerelease center has 105 beds for offenders to stay in as they transition into society. Currently, there are 92 individuals that reside there.
John Forkner, who was recently released from prison and served his time for a burglary charge, is now working towards finding employment once again.
Forkner has been in and out of incarceration since he was 11-years-old when he lived in California and in and out of jail many times over the past 20-years.
"It is the worst thing that can happen to you. You are taken away from your family, your friends, and anything that you are doing," said Forkner about his time behind bars.
Others like Mikenzie Potter, who has been in and out of incarceration since he was 17 years old, say his last experience on prerelease in Butte led him back to Prison.
"My daughter was being born, and they wouldn't approve me to go to be released from the prerelease, like a furlough for her birth," Potter explained.
Because he left, he severed another year and a half in prison for a felony escape charge.
He adds that once an offender is back in society, securing basics, like a job, a home, or vehicle to get back and forth to work can be challenging.
According to the Helena prerelease center, it can take an offender about a month to secure a job.
The correctional facility works with about 35 different employers in the Helena area, and the average pay rate for an offender is $15.30 an hour.
Offenders also pay for their room and board.
Potter adds that his biggest challenge is applying for housing in the Helena area.
"People judge you on paper before they ever get the chance to get to know you and judge you on your character," he explained.
Both men say there is incredible pressure that comes with re-entering society. "Some days, I feel it would be easier to go back to prison than it is to do deal with the hundreds of stressors in the community," said Potter.