CSG Justice Center

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Employment can play a critical role in reducing recidivism, but some communities simply do not have enough resources for corrections, reentry, and workforce development practitioners to provide every adult leaving prison or jail with the services they need to reduce their likelihood of re-offending and increase their level of job readiness.

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.

Each year, more than 10 million adults are released from jail or prison. One in 31 adults is under correctional supervision on any given day in the U.S.; it is estimated that 70 million adults have a criminal record. Across the political spectrum, people agree that efforts to help these individuals stay out of prison or jail and to succeed in the community must include a strategy focused on assisting them to get and maintain a job. As part of the CSG State Pathways to Prosperity initiative, the CSG Justice Center has been working with local and state governments, as well as leaders in the business community, to test and evaluate approaches that work to reduce recidivism and improve employment outcomes. This session reviewed what has been learned to date and highlight the perspectives of state leaders who are tackling this challenge.

Even as partisan tension increases in advance of the 2016 elections, national policymakers on both sides of the aisle can cite one area where many find broad agreement: The need for comprehensive criminal justice reform. In Washington, D.C., growing momentum behind efforts to reform the criminal justice system has pushed the issue to the forefront of lawmakers’ agendas for the fall. For example, pressure has intensified to reauthorize federal funding for programs that support successful reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals. This momentum for change to the federal system reflects lessons learned from states where system innovations and improvements have made an impact on recidivism and other criminal justice outcomes over the past decade.

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.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center held a staff briefing on Capitol Hill Oct. 11 on the Justice Reinvestment Initiatives in Ohio and North Carolina.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Rep. W. David Guice, chairman of the North Carolina House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety, detailed how data-driven justice reinvestment processes led to the passage of landmark legislation in the two states. The briefing was cosponsored by the Pew Center on the States.

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center announced today the release of a guide for policymakers committed to reducing the likelihood that probationers will reoffend. A Ten-Step Guide to Transforming Probation Departments to Reduce Recidivism provides probation leaders with a roadmap to overhaul the operations of their agencies so they can increase public safety in their communities and improve rates of compliance among people they are supervising.

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