Eric Holder Convening Group to Work on Reentry Issues
“Of course, money alone can’t solve the complex and widespread challenges facing our communities. To succeed in reducing violent crime, there are several key steps we must take.
First, we must call attention, not only to the symptoms, but also to the sources of violence. Robust enforcement efforts must incorporate a focus on prevention and an effort to understand the root causes of violent crime. Specifically, this means our work must expand beyond arrests and prosecutions. Although PSN has helped to secure many important convictions, it’s also shown that we can’t simply arrest our way out of the problem of violent crime. Of course, incarceration is necessary for public safety. But it’s only partially responsible for the declining crime rates we’ve seen. It’s not a sole, economically sustainable, solution.
Over the last few decades, state spending on corrections has risen faster than nearly any other budget item. Yet, at a cost of $60 billion a year, our prisons and jails do little to prepare prisoners to get jobs and “go straight” after they’re released. People who have been incarcerated are often barred from housing, shunned by potential employers and surrounded by others in similar circumstances. This is a recipe for high recidivism. And it’s the reason that two-thirds of those released are rearrested within three years. It’s time for a new approach.
As so many of you have pointed out, any real effort to contain spending on corrections, while ensuring public safety, must include a strong focus on preparing for reentry. Effective reentry programs provide our best chance for safeguarding our neighborhoods and supporting people who have served their time and are also resolved to improve their lives.
I’m proud that, last year, the Justice Department distributed $28 million in reentry awards under the Second Chance Act. And I’m pleased that we have another $100 million available for reentry programs this year. But we must complement reentry programs with smart and sound policy changes at every level of government.
That’s why I established a Sentencing and Corrections Working Group – to take a fresh look at federal sentencing practices and determine how we can better prepare federal prisoners to transition back into their communities. I am also convening an interagency working group to focus exclusively on reentry issues – everything from housing and job training needs to policy recommendations – and to enhance coordination at the federal level. But we also need more information about state and local crime trends, corrections policies, and neighborhood challenges – the insights many of you can provide.
Second, we must address the problem of violent crime holistically – by building on existing partnerships and bringing in different perspectives. Federal prosecutors must become neighborhood problem solvers, not simply case processors. They must partner with all levels of law enforcement and with all sorts of community partners. Just as surely as U.S. Attorneys, law enforcement officials and leaders across the Justice Department must come together, we must also include more community leaders, teachers, coaches, principals and – above all – parents in our work.
Finally, we must meet this problem with all the resources that sound science can bring to bear. Restoring scientific decision-making at the Justice Department is one of my highest priorities. And while research has told us much about the incidence and impact of violence, it hasn’t yet told us everything. We need more information about what works – and what doesn’t – so that we can make informed funding decisions and identify community-specific strategies.
As we take these steps and work to implement the solutions we need, there is – I believe – good cause for optimism. In fact, being with all of you today, in this great city, fills me with a sense of hope and excitement – excitement from the success you’ve achieved through Project Safe Neighborhoods, and hope for continued progress toward the goal we all share: safe, vibrant and productive communities.”
Click here to link to the entire speech transcript on the Department of Justice website.