For many, every month represents a chance at reentry – the ongoing journey of rebuilding lives after incarceration. However, the designation of April as Second Chance Month provides a poignant opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges individuals face when reentering society after serving time.

My own experiences have made me intimately familiar with these obstacles. After 13 years in prison, I was released in 2017 through a halfway house program. Though blessed with family support, education, and being in my 50s with some life experience, the road back was still arduous. The institutionalization ran deep – I had grown accustomed to stringent structure and routine. The perpetual fear of a misstep that could send me back to prison weighed heavily. It took until my probation terminated in 2021 for me to start truly moving forward mentally.

Even now, years later, the trauma lingers. Nightmares of being taken away in handcuffs again and again are a recurring reminder that this chapter, while behind me, is never fully closed. Just weeks ago, I was denied a professional opportunity explicitly due to my record – a harsh reality check from an organization that publicly champions second chances. While modern realities like new technologies and societal shifts from talking to texting are adapting challenges I’ve overcome, others like employment and housing discrimination remain insidious barriers.

The landscape is shifting gradually, with more fair chance employers realizing the value in providing second chances. This momentum is born from labor shortages but also from more business owners’ awareness of the struggles of reentry. We’ll gladly accept these open doors regardless of the motivations behind them. But access to affordable housing remains dismally stagnant for those with records despite it being a basic necessity for successful reentry.

Second Chance Month serves as an important spark for dialogue – a time for raising consciousness about these reentry struggles among those who haven’t directly experienced the criminal justice system. I’ve dedicated my career to preparing individuals for release and those outside struggling to get traction through sharing resources like Youturn’s evidence-based care services. But we must go beyond that by continuing to elevate re-entry as a perpetual, unified mission to fully reintegrate the millions impacted.

So to those who have gone through incarceration, I remind you of the immense value in maintaining your perseverance. Your fortitude to survive that experience and emerge with a second opportunity to move your life forward is something to be celebrated every day – not just this month. Hold that resilience close and let it propel you further.

Augie GhilarducciAugie Ghilarducci is the President of 2nd Opportunity, a company that provides transformational tool, programs, and support to help those dealing with incarceration, addiction, trauma, loss, and more rebound from setbacks and start down a positive new path. Augie is also the host of The Path Forward Podcast where he talks to people to share their stories of re-entry from incarceration and provide inspiration, hope, and resources.