The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
While Congress has been focusing on reducing mass incarceration by passing sentencing and prison reform, it is also vitally important that reforms be made at the back-end of the criminal justice system, when individuals leave prison and attempt to reintegrate into society. In fact, research shows that adequate reentry opportunities are associated with lower rates of recidivism and incarceration. However, millions of Americans with criminal records currently face significant barriers to reintegration, from discrimination in finding housing to formal and informal prohibitions on holding certain occupations.
Rehabilitation and reintegration also figure centrally in Jewish teachings about crime and the criminal justice system. As it is taught in Ezekiel, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked should turn from his way and live" (33:11). The Central Conference of American Rabbis affirmed the importance of the criminal justice system offering opportunities for reform and reentry in a 2015 resolution on racial justice, which resolved the organization to support "Removing post-sentencing sanctions, including ineligibility for federal housing or subsidies."
Recognizing the tremendous importance of reentry, the Department of Justice declared this week, April 24 through 30, National Reentry Week. Over the past several days, hundreds of events have been held across the country to discuss best practices for reintegration of returning citizens, and to connect governmental and non-governmental reentry service providers. Additionally, the Bureau of Prisons has conducted a series of programs at its facilities during this week to help current prisoners learn about the resources that will be available to them upon release.
The Obama administration has also tried to shift attention to reentry opportunities in recent weeks with the announcement of the Fair Chance Business Pledge. The Pledge commits companies and corporations to adopt hiring practices that make it easier for people who were formerly incarcerated to secure meaningful employment, including by banning the box asking for felon status on job applications. So far, more than 15 national corporations have taken the pledge.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/San Jose Library