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September 4, 2019

Major coverage of the major challenges faced by those previously incarcerated

In the last day, I have seen a couple of notable articles in some major news outlets focused on the varied significant challenges facing formerly incarcerated persons as they seek to enter society.   Here they are with too-short excerpts:

From the New York Times, "Next Arena for Criminal Justice Reform: A Roof Over Their Heads":

Bipartisan efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system, backed by President Trump, have so far focused on getting people out of prisons and thinning the largest population of incarcerated people in the world.... But once released, some formerly incarcerated people struggle simply to find a place to live.  Public housing authorities and private landlords refuse to rent to them, labeling them public safety risks, sending them to the streets, to homelessness — and often back to prison, for offenses like sleeping in public spaces and panhandling....

The issue has even reached the 2020 presidential race. Senator Kamala Harris, Democratic of California and a White House hopeful, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, released the Fair Chance at Housing Act, which would require public housing authorities and owners to consider all mitigating circumstances when making screening determinations based on criminal activity.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, who is also running for president, has proposed criminal justice measures that would help reduce the “collateral consequences that hamper re-entry to formerly incarcerated people who have served their time — from restrictions to occupational licensing to housing to the disenfranchisement of over three million returning citizens.”

From the Washington Post, "After prison, more punishment: They did their time. But as the formerly incarcerated reenter the workforce, will their past be held against them?":

Across the country, more than 10,000 regulations restrict people with criminal records from obtaining occupational licenses, according to a database developed by the American Bar Association. The restrictions are defended as a way to protect the public.  But [Meko] Lincoln and others point out that the rules are often arbitrary and ambiguous. Licensing boards in Rhode Island can withhold licenses for crimes committed decades ago, by citing a requirement that people display “good moral character,” without taking into account individual circumstances or efforts toward rehabilitation.

Such restrictions make it challenging for the formerly incarcerated to enter or move up in fast-growing industries such as health care, human services and some mechanical trades, according to civil liberties lawyers and economists. These include the very jobs they’ve trained for in prison or in reentry programs like Lincoln’s.  And without jobs, many of those released could end up back in jail, experts say.

September 4, 2019 at 01:11 PM | Permalink

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