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Opinion: To Reimagine the Criminal Justice System, Start with a Face-to-Face Connection

Recently, the first lady and I convened a group of state officials, judges, prosecutors, victim advocates and other stakeholders to discuss Connecticut’s progress toward improving the state’s criminal justice system. Sounds like a run-of-the-mill convening of policymakers and practitioners until you consider the venue: one of our state’s maximum-security prisons, the Cheshire Correctional Institution.

WATCH: Gov. Reynolds of Iowa Meets Face to Face with People Incarcerated at a Maximum Security Facility

WATCH: Gov. Reynolds of Iowa Meets Face to Face with People Incarcerated at a Maximum Security Facility

During their visit, Gov. Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg met with inmates participating in Iowa’s largest apprenticeship program, in addition to leading a roundtable discussion with many of the program’s stakeholders and local business leaders where they discussed the importance of providing reentry services and employment opportunities for those being released from prisons and jails.

End “Stovepipe Approach” to Public Safety, State Officials Told

Wetzel’s remarks set the tone for the meeting, which was aimed at presenting officials in each state with a detailed analysis of their crime issues, including trends in arrests, recidivism and behavioral health, and help them come up with evidence-based solutions.

WATCH: Gov. Hickenlooper Speaks with Corrections Officers, Incarcerated Women During Face to Face Visit

WATCH: Gov. Hickenlooper Speaks with Corrections Officers, Incarcerated Women During Face to Face Visit

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, on Aug. 16, discussed mental health treatment and “second chances” during a tour of a women’s correctional facility in Denver, where he had the opportunity to #MeetFacetoFace with corrections officers and the people incarcerated there. “Prisoners are often forgotten … out of sight out of mind,” Gov. Hickenlooper said. “I think there are better ways of dealing with their lives than just locking them up in a box.”

Connecting to Those Impacted by Criminal Justice Policies

On August 14th, 2017 the Face to Face Initiative was launched across the U.S. Engaging in a wave of public activities that featured both Republican and Democratic governors and other elected officials, meetings were arranged for these policy leaders with people impacted by the criminal justice system in their respective states. These individuals included offenders, returned citizens, victims of crime and law enforcement.