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This workbook is designed to help you relaunch your life after being in prison or jail and successfully enter society, stay sober and become gainfully employed.

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SWOP Re-Entry Guide

September 2016

SWOP Behind Bars Re-Entry Guide is designed to help you identify and manage your life once you are released from jail or prison and to make sure you have all the tools and resources you need to be successful. 


Reentering your community can be more manageable when you’re aware of services and resources available to help.
It also includes additional information in specific areas where you may have questions or be looking for tools available to you. Be sure to review these lists, and discuss them and questions you may have with your Case Manager, Bureau Social Worker, or Reentry Affairs Coordinator.
Reentry can be a complicated process – others have felt the same way. But many of them were able to overcome this and have succeeded in finding work, supporting themselves and their families, and more. We want you to achieve the same.
You are a member of your community, and we want to help you transition home and succeed. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call the Bureau of Prisons Reentry Hotline (toll-free) at  1-877-895-9196. 2-1-1 is a free and confidential service that helps people find the local resources they need (including reentry services) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 2-1-1 or by visiting


Table of Contents


Organizing Your Life BEFORE Release

Details that matter

Things you can work on before you leave

     180 Days before Release

      90 Days before Release

      30 Days before Release

Staying Sober

How to Find a Safe Place to Live

How to get Clothes

How to get Personal Hygeine Items

How to Eat Healthy and Cheap

How to Find a Job

How to Find a BETTER Job

How to get into a Vocational School or College







Organizing Your Life Before Release

Chapter 1

TIMELINE: Start this at least 8 weeks before you leave. n    Get your identification documents. Talk with your Case Manager or Reentry Affairs Coordinator about this, because they can help you. •You can get a social security card or a replacement card for free from the Social Security Administration. If you do not get your card before you leave prison, the application and other information can be found at •Birth certificates can be ordered while you are in prison from the state where you were born. If you do not get your birth certificate before you leave prison, this website shows you where to write for vital records for each state and territory:

n    Find out about any outstanding fees, fines, debts, or warrants. Speak to your Case Manager about how to find out if you have any outstanding fees, fines, warrants or debts. These can limit your ability to obtain employment, housing, or even lead to arrest. If you have outstanding child support payments, failing to manage this before your release could prevent you from getting a driver’s license. n    Are you a veteran? If yes, make sure you have your military discharge papers. You can do this either online (after your release) or by mail. If you choose to do by mail, check with your Case Manager to see if they can give you the paper form. Instructions and forms for both online and by mail can be found at http://www.archives. gov/veterans/military-service-records/

Get proof of your GED / high school completion, or any other classes you took while in prison. •

If you got your GED while in prison, make sure you have your transcript before you are released. The Bureau does not keep or give GED transcripts post-release. •

If you can, create a folder with everything positive you have done while in prison, including certificates for vocational training, drug treatment, anger management or any other cognitive behavioral therapy. n    

Get your medical records.  Ask Health Services about getting copies of your medical records while you are still in prison to help you transition to treatment in the community. n    

Confirm your housing.  Your Reentry Affairs Coordinator, Case Manager, or Social Worker (if available) can provide you information about finding a place to live in your release city.

Social Workers can also help if you need special housing such as a nursing home, assisted living, senior housing, or group home placement.