Eric Holder Convening Group to Work on Reentry Issues

Following immediately below is a key excerpt from a July 13, 2010 speech by United States Attorney General Eric Holder, as presented before the Project Safe Neighborhood’s Annual Conference in New Orleans. While the speech spanned wide aspects of joint efforts to reduce violent crime, what was especially notable and welcome was Holder’s emphasis that a new approach is needed within the correctional system to better “prepare prisoners to get jobs and ‘go straight’ after they’re released.”-ED

“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.

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  • Thomas Kinney said:

    I have written here previously in support of H.R.1529 the “Second Chance For Ex-Offenders Act of 2009.” That legislation has now been effectively replaced by new legislation introduced June 9th by Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. The new bill is H.R.5492 the “Fresh Start Act of 2010.’ H.R.5492 is a much better bill in many ways. Among them is a provision for automatic expungement under certain circumstances and incentives to the individual states to bring their expungement laws in line with the provisions of this legislation.

    Hey, here is a novel idea.

    What if Holder, et al Were to actually come out in favor of reform legislation such as Congressman Cohen’s bill. The full text is available at the Library of Congress web site “Thomas” by entering the bill number in the search box or at our support group site on Yahoo by joining the group and clicking the file tab on the home page.

    What if Holder et al were to support a reentry initiative that would actually do something to remove the roadblocks placed, largely by the government, in the path of those who are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and their families if given the opportunity? What if Holder et al were to actually support legislation that will allow ex-offenders, who meet the requirements, to stand on their own two feet thus allowing scarce funding to be directed to those who need it the most? What if Holder et al were to support legislation that would relieve thousands of the stigma, collateral consequences and effective civil death sentence so unjustly imposed by a felony conviction?

    Just asking.

  • jerry said:

    Dear Sir:

    Thank you once again for the opportunity to provide you with information on the Ex-Offenders grass roots program. We know that you will enjoy our immediate concerns as we work towards helping ex-offenders develop, both, professional and personal success in returning to and maintaining a position of prominence and responsibility in their communities.We hope that you will consider becoming a part of our positive movement. The Ex-Offender Re-entry Into Society Program will have a strong presence, throughout the Pine Belt Communities.

    Would you be williling to provide any information on any organizations that would be willing to donate clothing and shoes, old homes (we will repair), computers,old vehicles,can goods ect? We are currently collecting merchandise and services for our program participants and I’m writing to request your support. Our mission is to provide quality, community- based housing and employment for ex-offenders coming directly out of prison?



    Ex-Offenders Re-Entry Into Society


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