This week is National Reentry week, a time when the Department of Justice and other federal agencies, returning citizens, and advocates work to raise awareness of our nation’s need to reform our criminal justice system and better reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals into society. In the United States, nearly 100 million adults have criminal records and currently 2.2 million adults are in prison.
Yesterday, the White House hosted a briefing entitled “The Consequences of the Criminal Justice System,” which included leading experts from the American Enterprise Institute, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett, opened the briefing with the central message: “If we reform our criminal justice system our communities will be safer and our economy will be stronger.” While describing important research, panelists demonstrated how mass incarceration contributes significantly to poverty, income inequality, and family instability. Fixing the damage will be difficult, and any reform must include community based programs to improve access to early childhood education, healthcare, and housing; implement better community policing practices; and much more.
At JCPA’s annual conference last year, our partner agencies recognized that, “denying access [to returning citizens] to public assistance, food stamps, subsidized housing, professional licensure, student loans, and other programs to individuals who would otherwise qualify is short-sighted and counterproductive” as we work to allow all Americans the opportunity to live up to their potential.