Florida guaranteed income program will keep ex-prisoners afloat

Throughout his three-and-a-half-year jail sentence, Kevin Scott says jail workers served him and his fellow inmates rotten meals and stored them malnourished. He says they took him to the laundry room to beat him, and repeatedly stomped on a photograph of his daughter. “The messaging is: You don’t matter,” he says. “You’re insignificant. It’s brutal.”

However the Gainesville, Florida, resident says the trauma removed from ended as he walked out of jail six years in the past.

Other than any emotional harm they might be contending with, newly launched prisoners additionally face burdensome authorized prices as they battle to seek out employment and housing. In response, a coalition in Alachua County, Florida, simply launched a privately funded guaranteed income pilot particularly for previously incarcerated individuals, designed and administered by former prisoners. The coalition goals to assemble knowledge throughout the year-long program and lift public consciousness concerning the grim actuality of reentering society with out assist.


From November 10 via December 1, Alachua County residents lately placed on felony probation or launched from a Florida state jail, county jail, or federal jail will be capable to apply to be one of many randomly chosen 115 individuals to obtain $1,000 in January 2022, adopted by $600 per 30 days thereafter for a full yr. A second spherical of functions will additionally start in January.

Community Spring, a nonprofit whose mission is to spur financial mobility and dismantle structural poverty, is managing the pilot. Beforehand, a bunch of fellows on the group, all of whom had had expertise with the prison justice system—together with the previously incarcerated Scott—had been employed to assist group members with reentry help, however when COVID-19 hit, the group pivoted to financial aid, sending one-time $300 checks to about 100 households on the Supplemental Vitamin Help Program, or SNAP, profit listing. It wasn’t a lot, Scott says, however “throughout that point when bathroom paper was value $1,000, it appeared prefer it meant an entire lot.”

By coincidence, on the similar time Gainesville’s mayor, Lauren Poe, had signed on to Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a coalition of 60 U.S. mayors, and rising, to implement guaranteed income pilots in their very own cities. Given Neighborhood Spring’s confirmed competency in implementing a cash-transfer program, Poe requested the group to formulate a distribution system. Neighborhood Spring pushed for the pilot to particularly goal the previously incarcerated, a very susceptible inhabitants—especially in Florida, the place 795 individuals per 100,000 are imprisoned.

Life after jail is commonly slangily known as “residing below the axe,” says Scott, who’s now the supervisor of the pilot, known as Just Income GNV. Traumatic stress apart, former inmates battle to seek out housing and jobs; the homelessness fee is 10 instances that of most of the people, and 27% are unemployed, with many others pressured to accept low-paying jobs. All of the whereas, they’re usually accountable for the prices of court docket and probation charges, necessary courses, ankle screens, and restitution.

They’re pressured into doing the “morbid math,” Scott says, of balancing the worth of residing with the chance of being despatched again to jail if they’ll’t produce cash for authorized charges. “I’m a white man, very a lot born on third base,” Scott says, “and I barely made it.”

On the similar time, most of the people is basically unaware of those toils, Scott says, many believing that prisoners merely reenter life on a degree footing, and that “any failure is additional reflection of their particular person missing ultimately.” He says they’re anticipating backlash from some individuals who assume the money transfers are undeserved, so it’s key that the pilot is totally privately funded by Mayors for a Guaranteed Income and impression traders Spring Point, and never by taxpayer {dollars}.

However he hopes the pilot will assist change these attitudes in the long term, particularly with some correct knowledge. Alongside the 115 recipients, a second group of randomly chosen people they’re calling the “Allies,” primarily a management group, will function a comparability to these receiving the cash, which ought to result in some fact-based conclusions concerning the relationship between income and recidivism. In spite of everything, 20% p.c of people that return to jail accomplish that due to failure to pay court-required charges.


“There’s been no crime dedicated, aside from the crime of the fallacious checking account,” Scott says. “You’re simply too poor to be free.”