We Can Learn Much About the American Dream From Ex-offenders Who Turn Their Lives Around

I have a proposition for you: Our most common idea of who or what constitutes the American Dream -- billionaires, celebrities, athletes -- is dead wrong.But if not the rich and famous, who has chased down what the rest of us should be pursuing? Where is the American Dream to be found? Not in the stories of people who make it into the stratosphere, the .0001 percent, but rather the ordinary people who make it from the bottom to the middle. That is, the people who beat all the odds to live lives in which they earn their success and can provide for their families. These are the people that look like our ancestors, the ambitious riffraff who came to America not for fame and wealth, but simply for decent lives for themselves and their families.To find these people in America today, look at the margins of society. This was my goal for research my American Enterprise Institute colleagues and I are undertaking on the reentry of prisoners into American society. Men and women in America's prisons have the deck stacked completely against them once they finish their sentences. It's nearly impossible to get jobs, and reentering their communities is just as difficult. More than 75 percent of formerly incarcerated Americans can't find jobs or have difficulty finding them after release, and the five-year recidivism rate stands at 76.6 percent. The odds of success in life after prison are slim.  Continue reading...

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