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How Much Money Do Prisoners Get When Released?

The transition from incarceration back into society can be extremely difficult for formerly incarcerated individuals. Many struggle to find housing, employment, and financial stability upon release. Providing adequate financial support and opportunities to ex-convicts is crucial for reducing recidivism rates and allowing them to successfully reintegrate as productive members of society.

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Financial Support Available to Ex-Convicts

Gate Money

When inmates are released from prison, they are typically given a small amount of “gate money” to cover immediate expenses as they transition back into society. The amount varies by state, but is usually between $50-$200. This money is intended to pay for necessities like transportation, food, and lodging until the individual can become self-sufficient. However, the small amount provided is rarely enough to truly get back on their feet.

Transitional Housing Assistance

Some states and nonprofit organizations provide short-term transitional housing and support services for newly released inmates. This temporary housing allows them to focus on finding employment and saving up for permanent housing. The Fortune Society in New York provides up to 12 months of transitional housing and comprehensive reentry services for ex-offenders.

Food Stamps/SNAP Benefits

Ex-convicts may qualify for food stamps or SNAP benefits depending on their income and assets. Benefits average $126 per month and can help purchase groceries while they get settled after release. Restrictions apply for drug-related convictions.


Medicaid coverage may be available upon release from incarceration depending on the state. Medicaid provides free or low-cost health insurance, which is vital for accessing medical and mental health treatment. Some prisons help inmates apply prior to release.

Social Security Benefits

If an ex-convict was receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) prior to incarceration, they can request reinstatement of benefits after release. The process involves filing paperwork and potentially going through disability redetermination.

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Veterans Benefits

Veterans who were dishonorably discharged due to actions related to a disability, such as PTSD, can apply to have their discharge status upgraded after release. This makes them eligible for VA health services, disability compensation, and other benefits. Veteran service organizations help former prisoners with their applications.

Child Support Modifications

Inmates who owe child support often accumulate significant arrearages and interest charges while incarcerated. Upon release, they can request the court to review their order and potentially lower payments. Modifications require showing reduced income and circumstances have changed.

Education and Training Programs

Some prisoner reentry programs provide grants for education, job training, apprenticeships, and credentialing programs. Learning new skills and trades makes ex-convicts more employable and increases earning potential. Private donors and government agencies fund these initiatives.

Employer Tax Credits

Under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), employers can receive $2,400 in federal tax credits for hiring ex-felons within one year of conviction or release. The primary purpose is to provide an incentive to hire at-risk individuals facing barriers to employment.

Finding Employment as an Ex-Convict

Addressing the Conviction

Being truthful and taking responsibility for past convictions is critical when applying for jobs. Avoid making excuses but emphasize personal growth and commitment to rebuilding your life. Highlight education and vocational skills gained in prison.

Seeking Companies that Hire Ex-Convicts

Some businesses actively recruit ex-convicts as part of their social mission. Check local listings for companies that participate in prison-to-work programs or specifically offer second chance hiring.

Building New Job Skills

Developing professional skills, trades, and experience is essential for finding stable employment. Be willing to start small doing labor, construction, landscaping, or restaurant work while improving your resume. Consider apprenticeships and vocational programs too.

Looking for Jobs in Growth Industries

Target growing industries like healthcare, manufacturing, construction, and technology that are hiring. The demand for workers in these sectors may provide opportunities for those with criminal records who have relevant abilities. Focus your job search on these thriving fields.

Working with Prisoner Reentry Programs

Nonprofit reentry organizations provide career counseling, mentorship, and direct connections to companies willing to hire ex-offenders. Work closely with programs in your city that specialize in helping the formerly incarcerated find and keep jobs.

Seeking Help from Staffing Agencies

Staffing agencies that specialize in second-chance hiring and workforce development can facilitate employment for ex-convicts. Agencies like America Works and ROSS Initiative partner with companies needing entry-level workers.

Contacting Local Unions

For those with construction or trade skills, unions like electrical workers, carpenters, and pipefitters may offer apprenticeships and job placements for ex-convicts who complete training. Unions often support giving members second chances.

Applying for Government Jobs

Some city and state government jobs only do background checks for specific sensitive roles. Consider firefighting, sanitation, parks and recreation, utility work, and similar public sector jobs. Hiring decisions are made case-by-case.

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Self-Employment Opportunities

Starting a small business provides an alternate path to employment if traditional jobs remain elusive due to a criminal record. Some options that ex-convicts can explore include:

Consulting or Advising

Leverage knowledge gained in your profession or industry before incarceration to work as an independent consultant who provides advice and services to companies in these fields.

Food Trucks and Catering

The relatively low startup costs of launching a food truck or catering business makes this an accessible industry for those with culinary experience.

Junk Removal and Hauling

Use a pickup truck to start a junk removal, debris hauling, and odd jobs company advertising your services online or via print flyers.

Lawn Care and Landscaping

Providing lawn mowing, gardening, and basic landscaping work is scalable from a one-person operation to eventually hiring a full crew.

Freelance Writing and Editing

Former prisoners can earn income by freelancing as writers, proofreaders, or content creators for online platforms.

Ride Share Driving

Driving for a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft allows flexible work without a fixed schedule or supervisor oversight. Gig driving utilizes private vehicles.

Secondhand Retail

Selling used or refurbished electronics, appliances, furniture, cars, or other goods through Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or apps provides income.

Delivery Driving

Make deliveries for restaurants or services like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Instacart, and Amazon Flex using your own car. You set your schedule.

Handyman Services

Offer general handyman and repair services to residential and commercial customers. Marketing is word-of-mouth and through online ads.

Pressure Washing

Use a power washer to start a mobile cleaning business specializing in sidewalks, houses, building exteriors, pools, and outdoor surfaces.

Supporting Reintegration Through Mentorship and Volunteering

Mentors play a powerful role in successful prisoner reentry by providing guidance, support, and encouragement. Mentorship helps ex-offenders avoid old social circles and poor influences. Volunteering also creates community connections.

Mentorship Programs

Programs like Wall Street Prison Consultants leverage mentor relationships to motivate self-improvement and accountability. Matches are based on shared experiences and interests. Meetings continue for months after release.

Peer Support Groups

Support groups connect ex-convicts with others facing similar challenges. Sharing stories, resources, and coping strategies builds a community of positive support beyond prison walls. Groups provide nonjudgmental understanding.

One-on-One Community Matches

Local nonprofits match former inmates with individual civilian volunteers who personally assist with needs like housing, transportation, job search tips, and anxiety support. These direct partnerships last beyond release.


Giving back as a volunteer allows ex-convicts to demonstrate changed character, contribute positively, learn new skills, and expand social connections – all adding stability. Animal shelters, food pantries, youth programs, churches, and community centers often welcome ex-offender volunteers.

Returning Citizen Communities

Transitional housing facilities like the Dismas House offer communal living combined with reentry programming. Mutual support from housemates going through the same situations makes recovery smoother.

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Religious Community Reentry

Many churches and faith groups actively assist prisoners returning home through material aid, transitional housing, job search help, and emotional support. Joining religious communities can provide new purpose.

Key Takeaways

Providing adequate financial assistance and employment opportunities makes prisoner reintegration more feasible. However, family connections and community mentors are equally vital for keeping ex-convicts on positive paths after release. Avoiding high-risk peer groups reduces recidivism. Developing personal agency and responsibility is also essential. With the right support network and determination to build a new life, a second chance at becoming contributing citizens is possible for most.

How much money do prisoners receive when released?

Most prisons provide $50-200 in gate money. The amount depends on the state. Some states offer nothing. Parolees may also receive housing and food assistance.

What benefits can ex-prisoners apply for?

Common benefits include food stamps, Medicaid, transitional housing, Veterans benefits if applicable, social security for prior recipients, and eligibility for certain educational grants and job training programs.

What jobs are best suited for employing ex-convicts?

Construction, food service, manufacturing, landscaping, sanitation, and other hands-on labor jobs commonly hire ex-convicts. Unions also provide apprenticeships. Some small businesses are open to hiring them too.

What are programs that help prisoners with reentry?

Nonprofits like the Fortune Society and Delancey Street provide transitional housing, job training, counseling, and reentry services. Government initiatives like the Second Chance Act fund prisoner education and reintegration programs.

How can employers receive tax benefits for hiring ex-convicts?

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) provides a federal tax credit of $2,400 per ex-felon hired within a year of conviction or release from prison. The program incentivizes hiring ex-convicts facing barriers to employment.

Table of Convictions and Time Served

NameCrimeDate ConvictedTime Served
John SmithArmed robbery3/5/20125 years
Sarah DavisTax fraud1/2/201818 months
Kyle ThompsonDrug trafficking6/20/20144 years
Tina WhiteEmbezzlement9/8/20162 years
James WilsonAssault4/11/20199 months

Quotes from Ex-Convicts

“Prison was a wake up call, but I’m working every day to better myself.” – John S., released in 2017

“My past doesn’t define me. I’m ready to prove myself.” – Sarah D., released in 2019

“The friends I had in my old life led me down the wrong path. Now I’m focused on the future.” – Kyle T., released in 2018

“Getting incarcerated was rock bottom for me, but it forced me to make real changes in my life.” – Tina W., released in 2021

“I regret the person I was, but I’m committed to making things right and moving forward.” – James W., released in 2020


Successfully transitioning from incarceration back into the community poses major financial, social, and emotional challenges. However, providing adequate support services and employment opportunities makes reintegration achievable for most motivated ex-convicts. With mentorship, positive peer groups, and determination to change, the formerly incarcerated can become productive, responsible citizens. But it requires society to give those with criminal records a fair chance.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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