Reentry Week promotes reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals back to their communities. New Haven’s Project Fresh Start and Warren Kimbro Reentry Project both work to facilitate successful transitions and better opportunities for people who have gone to prison.
Reentry Media Clips
With the U.S. unemployment rate at 4.1 percent and 6 million jobs unfilled nationwide, hiring people with criminal records, even those who have served jail or prison sentences, has moved from corporate kindness to corporate necessity. To fill jobs, companies are looking with fresh eyes at a sizable demographic that has historically been all but excluded from the workforce.
After years behind bars at Kern Valley State Prison and the state lockup in Chino, California, Martin Leyva had grown accustomed to the brutal violence and volatility of prison life. Showing up for his first day of college following his release, on the other hand, was truly frightening.
The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed a criminal-justice reform bill that narrows the ability of employers to research the criminal records of job applicants, but also provides legal protection from negligent-hiring claims to companies that are unable to view a sealed criminal record.
The Transition from Jail to Community program housing pod in the jail looks different from other units. The walls are decorated with finished jigsaw puzzles, collages pasted together from magazine cutouts, drawings and motivational phrases. In other pods, the men mill about, leave their beds unmade and sleep during the day.
New-arrest recidivism and return-to-prison recidivism are two of the four ways the report counts recidivism rates. It also counts two other categories related to new crimes—new convictions and new sentences. These categories overlap since, for example, anyone who is sentenced also has been arrested and convicted.
Philadelphia resident Ronald Lewis was convicted of two misdemeanors in 2004. Almost 15 years later, his record still stands in the way of employment and other opportunities. However, states like Pennsylvania are advancing clean slate policies that seal minor criminal records after a set period of time, giving people like Ronald a second chance.
“Law enforcement must firmly and finally acknowledge that when we play a role in sending someone to prison, we own some of the responsibility for what happens when they get out,” said District Attorney Vance.
Passed by the House and Senate, the Fresh Start Act prevents occupational and professional licensing boards from denying an occupational license due to someone’s criminal record, unless the criminal offense is a violent felony or relates directly to an offender’s ability to perform the job.
A new Urban Institute report on a Colorado program called Work and Gain Education and Employment Skills (WAGEES) program, suggests the role played by communities affected by crime in developing their own public safety strategies is consequential.