Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Caren Harp. I want to thank everyone for your participation today and for letting me hear the end of what sounded like a fantastic discussion of an incredibly important topic. Let me thank all the members of the Coordinating Council for your commitment to these issues and for your expert guidance to the Department of Justice. I also want to thank Caren for her leadership as Vice Chair of the Council and for all she and her team do to lead our juvenile justice efforts here at the Office of Justice Programs. And a special thanks to Elizabeth Wolfe, who does an amazing job as the Council’s Designated Federal Official.
As you leave today, I want to take this opportunity to underscore just how very important the issue of reentry is to this administration. President Trump himself has said that “We’re all better off when former inmates can reenter society as law-abiding, productive citizens.” He understands that effective reentry means safer communities, and it means that those coming out of correctional facilities have a better shot at success. The First Step Act, which he signed into law more than a year ago, represented the first major piece of criminal justice reform enacted in over a decade.
Last year, the Office of Justice Programs awarded almost $56 million to fund reentry programs in dozens of state, local and tribal jurisdictions. A substantial portion of that funding went to support services for youth coming out of residential placement and entering community supervision. In fact, over the last three years, our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has awarded almost $35 million to help young people who are transitioning back to their communities.
These services are so critical because, as we all know, the vast majority of the 43,000-plus juveniles in residential placement will come out eventually, and this group, perhaps more than any other, will determine the future safety of the communities they return to. It is crucial – for them and for all of us – that they have the skills and the support to make that transition successful.
Our attorney general knows what’s at stake if we fail to reach these kids. He has long expressed his concern about what can happen to young offenders if they don’t get the right attention. Bill Barr is a believer in holding juvenile offenders accountable. He also believes in early intervention to keep young people on the right path. And make no mistake, effective reentry is one of the most promising forms of intervention.
But we know that reentry cannot be an afterthought or a short-term proposition. Reentry planning must begin the moment a young person comes into the system. It should start with goal-setting while a youth is still in placement, and it should continue well beyond release. This is the philosophy behind the reentry toolkit that Caren and her team put together with some terrific juvenile justice experts. This issue is one that we’ve put a lot of thought and resources into, because it’s so key to successful outcomes for kids coming into the system.
We’re building on this great momentum. Right now, we have two open reentry solicitations. Seven million dollars is available under the Second Chance Act Youth Offender Reentry Program. This is our comprehensive juvenile reentry initiative. It provides educational, vocational and job placement services, as well as substance abuse treatment, housing assistance and healthcare. We awarded grants to nine sites under this program last year. That solicitation is open till April 28. We’re also making $5 million available under a program focused on the needs of incarcerated parents and their children. We made seven awards from this program last year. That one closes next Tuesday.
I’ll also mention that our Bureau of Justice Assistance is posting solicitations for adult reentry programs, and our National Institute of Justice has a $6 million solicitation open to support research on promising reentry practices. And we’ll be carrying this commitment forward into next year, as well. The president’s budget request for FY 2021 includes $87.5 million for our Second Chance Act programs.
Kids who break the law should be held accountable, but they should also be offered the chance at redemption, provided they’ve shown that they’ve earned it. The future safety and future prosperity of our country depend on young people who respect the law and who are ready and willing to make a positive difference. Instilling this ethic is what good reentry programs do. The Office of Justice Programs is committed to helping you and your counterparts across the nation meet this objective.
Thank you again for being part of today’s discussion, and thank you for all you do for our kids.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.