As predicted, President Trump cited prisoner reentry in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, but it was only a one-line mention. “This year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance,” the president said.
Twenty leading parole and probation administrators say the nation’s community corrections system has become “too big to succeed.” They endorsed a report by the Columbia Justice Lab released Monday showing that nearly five million Americans are under some form of post-incarceration supervision with proportionally little support for rehabilitation programs.
A pilot project called Safe Streets & Second Chances will involve 1,000 participants in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Pennsylvania. The goal is to develop individualized reentry plans that start on the first day prisoners are locked up.
After a successful petition campaign, Florida voters will decide this fall whether 1.5 million felons get their voting rights back. Florida is one of just three states that permanently bans ex-felons from voting unless they get clemency. If the amendment becomes law, it could have a huge effect on elections in a state as evenly split politically as Florida.
Employers are more likely to hire formerly incarcerated individuals if a replacement is guaranteed in the event the individual doesn’t work out, according to a Rand survey. Certificates of previous work experience, guaranteed transportation and tax credits also help.
A low unemployment rate prompts many companies to consider those with criminal records for jobs. States with job-training programs for inmates say demand for their workers has risen sharply in the past year.
“We have a great interest in helping them turn their lives around, get a second chance, and make our community safe,” President Trump said at a roundtable Thursday. Conservative advocates for reform came away optimistic, but it’s not clear that the White House will support any changes in sentencing laws.
E. Richard Webber, a federal judge in St. Louis, speaks out about sentencing, mass incarceration and the flaws of what he calls a justice system that sends “an endless line of African-American men to prison.”
The accumulation of criminal charges over several decades means that 10-15 percent of the population in five states have felony records. This makes it harder for them to find jobs and housing and is prompting some states to reclassify crimes.
At his Congressional testimony last week, JustUSA Leadership founder Glenn Martin called for more federal support for eliminating job restrictions affecting individuals released from prison. Here he explains why.