Department of Justice designates inagural National Reentry Week
Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will hold a special event at the Henry House in Anchorage on Wednesday, April 27, as part of National Reentry Week. As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to strengthening the criminal justice system, the Department of Justice designated the week of April 24-30, 2016, as National Reentry Week.
Housing is a key challenge that returning citizens face when they are released from prison back to their communities in Alaska. Henry House provides safe, alcohol and drug free, transitional housing to reentrants and others in downtown Anchorage. This will be a volunteer project at Henry House to assist with basic maintenance projects to brighten Henry House’s common areas. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has also invited the United States District Court, the United States Probation Office, and the Federal Public Defenders to participate.
Each year, more than 600,000 citizens nationwide return to our neighborhoods after serving time in federal and state prisons. Another 11.4 million individuals cycle through local jails. And nearly one in three Americans of working age have had some sort of encounter with the criminal justice system — mostly for relatively minor, non-violent offenses, and sometimes from decades in the past. In Alaska, there were 12,590 citizens released from state custody and 182 released from federal custody in 2015. The long-term impact of a criminal record prevents many people from obtaining housing, employment, higher education, and credit — and these barriers affect returning individuals even if they have turned their lives around and are unlikely to reoffend.
As part of National Reentry Week, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Monday in Philadelphia announced the “Roadmap to Reentry,” the Department’s comprehensive vision to reduce recidivism through reentry reforms at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). These efforts will help those who have paid their debt to society prepare for substantive opportunities beyond the prison gates, promote family unity, contribute to the health of our economy, advance public safety and sustain the strength of our communities.
The principles outlined in the “Roadmap to Reentry” are aligned with the work of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council which has been working since its creation five years ago to reduce recidivism and improve housing, employment, education, health, and child welfare outcomes.
As part of the national effort to increase awareness about these challenges, the Attorney General also sent a letter to governors with a request to permit citizens returning to their communities to exchange their Bureau of Prisons inmate identification card and authenticated release documentation for state identification, or for these documents to satisfy the primary identification document requirement for state-issued identification. Without government-issued identification, men and women leaving correctional facilities face extreme challenges securing employment and housing, registering for school, opening bank accounts as well as accessing other benefits, such as health care, that are critical to successful reintegration.
“In Alaska, we face similar challenges for our population attempting to return to our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Loeffler. “Housing, access to health care, and jobs are key components to successful reentry. In order to aid in successful transitions with the extra goal of increasing public safety and reducing recidivist crime, we need to step up our public, private partnerships and come up with creative solutions to address some of these needs.”
“Too often, justice-involved individuals who have paid their debt to society confront daunting obstacles to good jobs, decent housing, adequate health care, quality education, and even the right to vote,” said Attorney General Lynch. “National Reentry Week highlights the many ways that the Department of Justice – and the entire Obama Administration – is working to tear down the barriers that stand between returning citizens and a meaningful second chance – leading to brighter futures, stronger communities, and a more just and equal nation for all.”
Leadership from across the Administration will be traveling around the country to make policy announcements in support of National Reentry Week. They will also be encouraging federal partners and grantees to work closely with stakeholders like federal defenders, legal aid providers and other partners across the country to increase the impact of these efforts. National Reentry Week events are being planned in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. U.S. Attorney’s Offices alone are hosting over 200 events and BOP facilities are holding over 370 events.