KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Studies show that without meaningful help, two out of three inmates released from prison will be back behind bars within three years.
At KCK Community College, people are learning how hard it can be to start over on your own.
Every day about 2,000 men and women are released from prison.
Without support: finding a place to live, a job and other necessities can be overwhelming.
The Village Initiative helps those they call returning citizens, get back on their feet, offering services that include job placement, transitional housing and transportation.
Thanks to programs like this one, only 34 percent of Kansas prisoners return to criminal activity after getting out. The national rate is above 50 percent.
The group hopes that through a role playing simulation, community leaders can experience the barriers of returning to society, and join the effort to make it easier for felons to get a second chance.
"People who are getting out of prison are coming to a neighborhood near you," convicted murderer Martin Thomas said. "They are in the grocery stores you are at, they are in the theaters. They are everywhere you are. Those who believe ignoring that block of people is a good working philosophy don’t recognize the extent they are placing themselves and the community at a tremendous disadvantage."
Thomas spent 21 years of a 50 year sentence behind bars. He says he didn't know what the internet was when he was released from prison. He's thankful for strong family support that's made him a law-abiding part of society. But few have family willing to help. That's where the Village Initiative comes in.
A large number are incarcerated because of drug or alcohol abuse. The Village Initiative also has licensed addiction recovery counselors to help prevent ex-offenders from relapsing.