Capitol Comments

Across the United States, 70 million adults are estimated to have some sort of criminal record. The vast majority of adults who are incarcerated return to the community, and many face multiple barriers to successful reentry, including finding and maintaining employment. There are two primary reasons individuals returning home from prison or jail struggle to find and keep a job: many people have minimal work experience and limited job skills; and policy and legislative barriers, coupled with employer reluctance to hire adults with criminal records, limit employment opportunities, even when they are qualified for the job or have been crime free for an extended period of time.

The CSG Justice Center released a new policy brief that outlines opportunities for states and localities to improve public health and safety outcomes and reduce spending on corrections and health care services by maximizing the appropriate use of Medicaid coverage for people involved with the criminal justice system. People in prisons and jails often have complex and costly health care needs, and states and local governments currently pay almost the entirety of these individuals’ health care costs. In addition, as many as 70 to 90 percent of the some 10 million people released from prison or jail each year are uninsured. The majority of these individuals have little or no access to health care services and experience gaps in continuity of care, which are associated with poor health outcomes and increased recidivism, particularly among those with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

Video footage, pictures, and presentations from a groundbreaking forum on recidivism and reentry are now available on the National Reentry Resource Center website. The forum, coordinated by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, brought together leaders from all 50 states. Click here to learn more and to access these resources.

On Thursday, November 17, Congress passed the “minibus” appropriations bill, which consolidated appropriations for several agencies, including the Department of Justice. The bill provides a total of $2.2 billion for state and criminal justice programs.

On Monday, November 14, 2011, House and Senate conferees released the “minibus” appropriations report, which includes Fiscal Year 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) spending. The conference report, a consolidated appropriations bill for several agencies including the Department of Justice, provides $63 million for the Second Chance Act.

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