According to Bureau of Justice Statistics there were 2.2 million people incarcerated in Federal and State prisons and county jails nationwide. An additional 4.6 million additional people were on probation or parole at the end of 2015. That’s a staggering 6.8 million people that are actively involved with the criminal justice system. This number grows significantly when we factor in those who are no longer active in the criminal justice system (those who have been “rehabilitated”).

Another statistic from the Bureau of Justice Statistics is that 95% of incarcerated individuals will release back into the community at some point. According to Allen J. Beck’s “The Importance of Successful Reentry to Jail Population Growth” paper there approximately 9 million people released from jail each year.

The question I find myself asking is how many people do we have in our country who have had a criminal conviction? Its not just 6.8 million, the number is much higher than that. Exactly how high, I do not know, but according to the 2018 World Almanac the United States adult population as of 2016 was 249,489,772. It is safe to say that a large portion of our population is a criminal.

In fact, the 2018 World Almanac says that in 2015 there were 3,770,000 gay or lesbians, 1,870,000 bisexuals, and 1,397,150 transgenders (2016) for a total LGBT population of 7,037,150.

Approximately 7 million LGBT folks and approximately 6.8 million active criminals an we haven’t factored in the 9 million who release from county jails, or the millions who are no longer monitored.

There is no comparison from LGBT people to criminals I wish to draw other than the population reference, which gives us perspective into the staggering number of incarcerated individuals. I challenge everyone to think about what rehabilitation actually looks like. What in your mind would it take for a person who has committed a crime to be rehabilitated and what would they have to do to prove it?

It is a difficult question for people to answer. Was it difficult for you? I have to ask myself all the time what a rehabilitated me looks like, what do I have to do to prove I am changed? Work? Start a nonprofit? Seriously, what is it?

I am asking because I am one of the 95% of people who are going to leave this place and I know I am a changed person, but how do I reintegrate into a community that has no idea what they expect of me other than “stay away from us and do not commit another crime.” Not committing another crime is something I can do, which is more than I can say for most Americans, apparently.

I love my community and I have lots of support, thankfully. But I do not want people to fear. How does one mitigate that? My hope is that the more I write and keep communication lines open the more folks will see me as human. I want to be held accountable, I am okay with scrutiny, but what about human acceptance?

Think about what rehabilitation looks like, what specific things would prove I am rehabilitated and then send them to me or comment, let’s air it out.

With Love
Ruthie Utnage
[email protected]