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A University of Wisconsin Oshkosh criminal justice professor has penned a book for prisoners getting ready to re-enter society.

“Beyond Bars: Rejoining Society After Prison,” written by UW Oshkosh’s Stephen Richards and Jeffrey Ross, a criminal justice and forensics studies professor at the University of Baltimore, is a practical and comprehensive guide for ex-convicts and their families for managing a successful reintegration into the community.

“Today in the U.S., there are more than 7 million people in correctional custody, with more than 600,000 getting out of prison every year,” Richards said. “Imagine trying to find a job with a felony in this economy.”

The book provides tips on preparing for release while still in prison; dealing with family members, especially spouses and children; finding a job; handling money issues, such as budgets, bank accounts, taxes and debt; and avoiding drugs and other illicit activities. “Beyond Bars” also introduces the reader to free resources for support.

“Most of these men and women have spent very little time working out a plan as to where they might live and work,” Richard said. “We wrote this book to help people in jail and prison to think about how they might prepare for release before they walk out the gate.”

“Beyond Bars,” a mass-market paperback published by Alpha/Penguin and available nationwide July 7, serves as a follow-up to their book “Behind Bars: Surviving Prison.” Richards and Ross also have authored “Convict Criminology,” a textbook used by the University’s Inviting Convicts to College program, a free, noncredit course taught by UW Oshkosh criminal justice students that exposes inmates to higher education.

Richards also has authored “The Structure of Prison Release” and “The Sociological Significance of Tattoos.” He is in the process of writing “USP Marion: The First Federal Super Max Penitentiary.”

In addition to his scholarly expertise, Richards has an inside perspective on criminology, having spent three years in a federal prison on a drug conviction. After his release, he received a master’s degree in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a doctorate in sociology at Iowa State University. He has made frequent appearances as a guest expert for national media, including CNN, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, MSNBC and National Public Radio.

“I remember how hard it was to exit prison and re-enter society,” Richards said. “There is life after prison.”

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