WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder today convened the second meeting of the federal interagency Reentry Council to address ways to ensure those returning from prison become productive, law-abiding citizens. Among the topics discussed were $83 million in Fiscal Year 2011 funding the Department of Justice will award for Second Chance Act grants and other reentry programs as well as the latest in a series of “Reentry Myth Busters,” fact sheets intended to educate employers and others about the impact of federal laws on those who are formerly incarcerated and seeking jobs, housing and federal assistance or benefits.
Today’s federal Reentry Council meeting was attended by Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes. In addition to those agencies, the Federal Reentry Council, which meets semi-annually, also includes representatives from the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and several other federal agencies. Its mission is to reduce recidivism and victimization; assist those returning from prison, jail or juvenile facilities to become productive citizens; and save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.
“ We must use every tool at our disposal to tear down the unnecessary barriers to economic opportunities and independence so that formerly incarcerated individuals can serve as productive members of their communities,” said Attorney General Holder. “The Department of Justice today announced it is providing funding to local organizations whose critical work will reduce recidivism and victimization. At the same time, the council is ensuring these individuals and their families have the facts about federal policies and resources governing employment issues, veterans’ benefits and voting rights as they return home.”
The council also released several new “Reentry Myth Busters,” fact sheets designed to clarify existing federal policies that affect formerly incarcerated individuals and their families in areas such as public housing, employment issues, access to benefits, parental rights, and more. The new Myth Busters focus on veterans’ benefits, voting rights, criminal background checks, taxes and Medicaid eligibility.
Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General in the Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), also announced that 131 grants were recently awarded with the $83 million appropriated by Congress in Fiscal Year 2011 for the Second Chance Act and other reentry programs.
“The fact that we received more than 1,000 applications for Second Chance funding this year shows that states and communities around the country are working together on reentry issues and community safety,” explained Assistant Attorney General Robinson.
OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) will oversee the grants that will support reentry planning and demonstration projects for adults and juveniles; state, local, and tribal reentry courts; family-based substance abuse treatment programs; reentry programs for adults with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders; mentoring programs; and technology career training projects for incarcerated individuals.
“Here at BJA, we are committed to promoting partnerships among reentry stakeholders and to supporting a coordinated approach to evidence-based reentry programs. We will be collecting data from these grantees so we can learn more about effective reentry programs and, ultimately, quantify the costs and benefits of reentry programs,” said BJA Director Denise E. O’Donnell.
“Formerly incarcerated youth are at high risk for recidivism and need mentoring and other transitional support services,” said Jeff Slowikowski, Acting Administrator of OJJDP. “We are working closely with our partners as they develop and implement evidence-based reentry strategies that can strengthen public safety in their communities and make a difference in the futures of their youth.”
OJP’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarded funding to researchers Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura to continue previously funded NIJ research which looked at the “point of redemption" – when a prior arrest no longer distinguishes a person’s risk of future criminal arrests compared to a similar person in the general population.
NIJ’s reentry research portfolio also supports the evaluation of innovative reentry programs, particularly statewide reentry initiatives, and research that examines the process of reentering society within the context of the community, neighborhood and family into which the former offenders return.
To access these studies and NIJ’s entire reentry research portfolio visit www.nij.gov/nij/topics/corrections/reentry/welcome.htm
For more information about the Reentry Council, visit www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/reentry-council .
Reentry Myth Busters are available at www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/documents/0000/1090/REENTRY_MYTHBUSTERS.pdf .
For more information about reentry and Second Chance, visit www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org.