Importance of Criminal Justice Reform and Second Chances Highlighted in Governors’ Speeches

March 29, 2019

This year, an unprecedented 20 new governors took office in January, putting their states on paths toward new ideas, initiatives, and priorities. These newly elected officials, along with their incumbent peers, have taken the first months of 2019 to outline their administrations’ focuses and goals in inaugural and State of the State speeches. Many of these governors have used the opportunity to embrace criminal justice reform.

Recognizing that the majority of people who are incarcerated will eventually be released, governors introduced new endeavors—and touted existing ones—that facilitate a person’s successful reentry and help reduce recidivism, minimize costs, and foster safe communities. These efforts include effectively connecting people who have substance addictions and other behavioral health needs with treatment as well as providing education and skills training that help people leaving incarceration successfully find employment.

These speeches come against a backdrop of national criminal justice reform. In December 2018, President Donald Trump signed the First Step Act into law, which included the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, a bipartisan law that provides funding for reentry programs across the country. President Trump pointed to the First Step Act in his annual State of the Union this January, saying that the law ensures that “America is a nation that believes in redemption.”

Below are highlights from governors’ inaugural and State of the State speeches.

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