Yes, there has been a lot of talk during the last two or three years, but much more action is needed! Perhaps the most significant problem facing criminal justice reform, including more vigorous and effective reentry programs, is the attitude of our politicians – in both the state and federal legislatures. They just don’t get it! Most of them still want to sound “tough on crime” and do not see the value … the immense value monetarily and socially, in getting “smart on crime”.
Notice that astonishing figure in the article: 45,000 barriers to reentry!!
Excerpts from the article:
America is finally waking up and realizing its drug and criminal justice policies are failing its own citizens. Especially those with a substance use disorder. A bi-partisan coalition in the U.S. Congress is now pushing for serious reform of our justice system — with support from both the Koch brothers and President Obama — which institutionalizes the warehousing of millions of people and treats substance use as a crime deserving jail time rather than a health disorder needing treatment. This new wave of reform needs to ensure that once people with substance use disorders leave prison or probation, they are not confronted with insurmountable barriers to employment, education, housing, health care and other necessities.
The American Bar Association identified no less than 45,000 barriers to reentry for people with criminal records. Many of these deserve to be toppled, but singularly onerous obstacles confront millions of people with criminal records that include drug offenses.
For example, if you ever worked any job in a health facility — doctor, nurse, lab technician, food service, or janitor to name a few — and are convicted of a drug felony, you will be barred from further work in the health care industry for a minimum of five years and possibly more. Furthermore, employers often reject hiring suitable prospective employees after learning their histories. And there are thousands of other unfair restrictions on employment like these for people with histories of addiction.
Sanctions against people with drug convictions also create obstacles to education, housing and public benefits — the very things we know reduce recidivism and make communities safer, healthier and better places to live.
The inexcusable federal bans on SNAP and TANF should be eliminated. The REDEEM Act, sponsored by Senators Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), would take a significant step in this direction, eliminating the ban for some offenses and providing a mechanism for people to have their benefits restored.
Easing the path to re-entry after prison is only part of the challenge confronting our criminal justice system. A broad range of other reforms are necessary, including those that ensure life-saving addiction treatment is available to justice-involved individuals. These include diversion programs to treatment facilities and more widespread use of Medication Assisted Treatment for individuals with opioid addictions, among others.