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January 5, 2011

"Attorney General Eric Holder Convenes Inaugural Cabinet-Level Reentry Council"

The title of this post is the heading of this notable press release from the Department of Justice. Here is how the release starts:

Attorney General Eric Holder today convened the inaugural meeting of the Cabinet-level "Reentry Council" in Washington to identify and to advance effective public safety and prisoner reentry strategies.

In addition to the Attorney General, the council includes Departments of Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan; Labor Secretary Hilda Solis; and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Members also include Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Michael Astrue; Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, R. Gil Kerlikowske; Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Melody Barnes; Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois; and Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Jacqueline Berrien.

The council will address short-term and long-term goals through enhanced communication, coordination and collaboration across federal agencies. The mission of the council is threefold: to make communities safer by reducing recidivism and victimization; to assist those returning from prison and jail in becoming productive, tax paying citizens; and to save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration.

"Reentry provides a major opportunity to reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars and make our communities safer," said Attorney General Holder. "More than two million people are behind bars, and 95 percent of them will be released back into their communities. By developing effective, evidence-based reentry programs, we can improve public safety and community well-being."

Among its goals, the Reentry Council will meet semi-annually to leverage resources across agencies to reduce recidivism and victimization; identify evidence-based practices that advance the council’s mission; promote changes to federal statutes, policies and practices that focus on reducing crime; and identify federal policy opportunities and barriers to improve outcomes for the reentry community.

I am pleased to hear that this "Reentry Council" is up and running, and I am hopeful that they can and will get a lot done in the months ahead. And I think it would be especially cool if the Council had a public event with high-profile former felons like Martha Stewart and Michael Vick and Marion Jones to talk about some of their (especially positive and uncommon) reentry experiences.

UPDATE:  Jeralyn at TalkLeft has this terrific and lengthy post reacting to this news, which finishes with this appropriate sentiment:

If you have good ideas of your own, especially from your practice, don't hesitate to write one of the members of the council and ask that it be considered.  This is a government endeavor, funded by grant money and taking place during the workday.  We pay their salaries.  The community is supposed to benefit from their work.  We are the community.  I think we should have the ability to provide input.  I would hope they would welcome it.

January 5, 2011 at 06:15 PM | Permalink


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Makes sense that Kerlikowski would be on the "be nice to felons" panel. At least this is a step up for him--his policy while in Seattle was "Don't stop rampaging criminals from committing racially-motivated violence and killing an innocent citizen", so I guess now he's willing to let them serve their time before being nice to them.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 5, 2011 8:19:53 PM

Was just about to note the proposal is rife with opportunities for crime-issue demagogues to attack it when I noticed federalist's post had already made that point.

Holder's proposal makes good sense. Yet for the reason cited above, it doesn't stand a chance.

BTW: Is there such a thing as a former felon?

Posted by: John K | Jan 6, 2011 9:09:46 AM

John K, you say I am engaging in demagoguery. You mind pointing out where my post is off base? Kerlikowski's timidity led to the death of Kevin Kime. Such a tolerance of criminal behavior, in my mind, makes him exactly the wrong person for this little panel.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 6, 2011 9:13:10 PM

No matter how you, I , we, may feel about crime and criminals - almost all convicts return to civilian life. We, as I am one, are and will be among you. Don't you think that some provision should be made for re-integration? Perhaps even the ability to re-enter society as a full member? Perhaps not. But consider what a choice that would be and all of its necessary consequences.Are we, you and I ready to live with them?
We all come home...,unless you kill or deport us. Consider and climb down off the soap-box. Re-enter the real world of solutions not fear-mongering.

Posted by: Tim Rudisill | Jan 8, 2011 7:39:43 AM

Tim, that sounds nice, until you consider the natural reaction of people who don't want to be associated with criminals. Barack Obama wouldn't let a felon anywhere near his kids, so why should I? I agree that there are issues with, for example, sex offender lists that are over-inclusive and the fact that 30 year old convictions can weigh down a life that has become law-abiding.

In any event, that's not really what I was getting at (assuming your post was a response to mine). First, I was taking a shot at Kerlikowski, and second I was saying that a reflexive pro-criminal hack (who shouldn't have gotten the post he got, nice to see Obama spitting on the graves of the innocent) has no business being on a panel to deal with the issues facing criminals.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 8, 2011 10:08:32 AM

well federalist considering most of the people on this panel and most of the rest of the govt and society is full of pro-hate, pro-punishment,pro-vengence,pro-keep the foot on the neck crowd! i think ONE pro-criminal hack as you called it on the panel is ONLY FAIR!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 9, 2011 5:23:23 PM

Dear Federalist, don't you mean convicted criminals? You do associate with criminals, though perhaps unknown to you, every day all day long. You may well be one yourself...just not convicted - yet. Grow up and take a look at what constitutes crime now. "This ain't your fathers C.J.system".

Posted by: Tim Rudisill | Jan 10, 2011 8:10:01 PM

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