OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) - Some inmates released from Kentucky prisons will now have access to a list of resources to find housing, food and employment assistance.
The Kentucky Department of Corrections and the state's Department of Protection and Advocacy are releasing a statewide directory for inmates with disabilities aimed at helping those released from prison.
The directory was compiled county-by-county. All 120 Kentucky counties are included in the directory, which will be provided to parole officers, re-entry coordinators and made available at state prisons.
Department of Protection and Permanency official Jan Powe told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer (http://bit.ly/Ws8iiT ) that it took a year to compile the directory.
"It was a tedious process calling 10,000 businesses," Powe said. "It became a lot larger than we had envisioned."
The directory covers everything from housing and food to where to get counseling, a college degree or HIV testing. If a county didn't have a specific service, a state number is included so the person can find a service in another county.
The committee that prepared the directory found the three main barriers that inmates with disabilities face when attempting to re-enter society are finding accessible housing, finding and maintaining employment and not having financial resources.
"One thing we found was people with disabilities can't navigate the system," Powe said. Because people leaving prison with disabilities don't know where to find help with housing and other needs, they are at a very high risk of committing new crimes in order to get money, Powe said.
For inmates without disabilities, it is already difficult enough to return to society after a felony conviction and a prison sentence, Powe said.
"If you're a felon in Kentucky, you can't vote, you can't get a job" and it's difficult to find a place to live, Powe said. "Even getting faith-based coalitions involved (in helping former prison inmates) is difficult, because the sympathy is not there."
If a county didn't have a specific service — such as a homeless shelter — a state number is included so the person can find a service in another county, Powe said.
"We tried not to leave any blank spots," Powe said.
Powe said it is important to communities and the state that people leaving prison reintegrate successfully into society. If a person is later re-arrested and sentenced to prison, it taxes state resources; for example, the average cost of keeping someone in a state prison in Kentucky in 2011 was $62 daily, Powe said.
The recidivism rate in 2011 was 38 percent.
"People should be concerned about the money we're spending" on prisons, Powe said. "I'm not soft on crime (but) I do think we have a responsibility to rehabilitate people."