Valuing Second Chances in a Time of Crisis

April 1, 2020

Editor’s Note: Each week throughout April’s Second Chance Month, the CSG Justice Center will be sharing new videos of governors gaining important perspective from people impacted by state criminal justice systems.

In 2019, a historic number of governors took office for the first time. Those new governors are now facing unprecedented challenges amid the COVID-19 outbreak—challenges that are particularly acute for people who live or work in prisons.

In the weeks and months before the virus hit the U.S., several of these new governors connected personally with a range of people, including those who are currently incarcerated, others who are on community supervision, and some who have been diverted to behavioral health treatment. They did so to give themselves a ground-level perspective on the criminal justice systems they now oversee.

As a result of having taken this step so early in their tenures, these select governors now have the benefit of these personal perspectives as they lead their states through the myriad complexities of COVID-19. For them, the prison system is more than just a budget line item or a group of buildings or an abstract idea; it is the people whose hands they’ve shaken and whose stories they’ve heard.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center, with the support of Arnold Ventures, arranged and documented these governors’ experiences as part of its Face to Face initiative, which creates meaningful, personal interactions between policymakers and people who have firsthand experience with the criminal justice system.

As we acknowledge the start of Second Chance Month today—and all of us strive for a fighting chance in a suddenly new and uncertain world—it’s important that we keep in mind the people who are most vulnerable. In the spirit of powering policy with empathy and human connection, we’ll be sharing new videos of each governor’s Face to Face experience throughout the month of April.

Continue to follow us throughout the month of April as we continue to share more content related to Second Chance Month. You can also learn more about the Face to Face initiative or find additional resources related to COVID-19 and criminal justice.

Face to Face, a project led by The CSG Justice Center, creates meaningful interactions between policymakers and people who have firsthand experience with the criminal justice system.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers wanted to learn more about the challenges that people on supervision face, so he went straight to the source—a local office of the Division of Community Corrections.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and officials from his administration recently met with employers and formerly incarcerated people participating in a work release program to talk about ways to make finding a job easier for people who want to work.

During a recent visit to the East Boise Community Reentry Center, a minimum-security women’s facility in Boise, Idaho Gov. Brad Little saw firsthand the real-life benefits of making investments in people who are incarcerated as they prepare to reenter their community.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee visited Mental Health Cooperative in Nashville as he works to improve the state’s approach to mental health services and find opportunities to divert people who need care from jail and into treatment.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis visited the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Ordway, CO, where he listened as incarcerated men shared their entrepreneurial ideas in a style mimicking Shark Tank and participated in a round-robin set of mock job interviews with the aspiring job hunters.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly met in Leavenworth, KS, with three businesses that provide employment opportunities to men serving their sentences at Lansing Correctional Facility.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson visited the Fulton Community Supervision Center, which was transformed last year into a facility for women that provides gender-responsive and trauma-informed approaches to better serve women under supervision.

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