Big Changes Looming on the Criminal Justice Reform Horizon
The second week of July was invigorating to those of us occupying the criminal justice reform space. President Obama became the first sitting President to, in less than one week, commute the excessive sentences of 46 people incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses, make an entire speech calling for major overhauls in criminal justice reform and prisoner rehabilitation and then followed up his “call to action” with a tour of a Oklahoma’s Federal prison, El Reno.
For decades, proposed criminal justice reform proposed legislation has been repeatedly stalled in Congressional committees. Is this finally the time for major reforms? Despite major bipartisan support, opinions seem to differ. What most people can agree upon is the need to dismantle and rebuild this ineffectual system which, at the taxpayer cost of $80M, fails to rehabilitate or educate incarcerated persons. Most people would also agree that there is a necessity for beneficial re-entry programs. In our technological society, platforms need to be developed that serve as effective and efficient pathways to employment and self-sufficiency for men and women exiting jails and prisons.
With thought leaders like Senator Cory Booker, Pat Nolan, Van Jones, Michelle Alexander and Glenn Martin spearheading discussions on reducing mass incarceration, major reforms feel like they are looming on the horizon. What legislation Congress will actually agree upon and pass remains to be seen.