Washington, D.C. — Nearly 75 percent of returning citizens are still unemployed a year after they are released. Commonsense policy changes can make it easier for everyone to gain financial stability, and tackling barriers faced by those who have been incarcerated would be an appropriate way to honor Second Chance Month, an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of helping formerly incarcerated individuals reenter their communities and reunite with their families. A new Center for American Progress column calls on the federal government, the private sector, and the nonprofit sector to implement second chance policies and reduce barriers for Americans with arrest or conviction records to support successful reentry into their communities and the workforce.
Between racial inequities and overcriminalization of low-income people and people of color, the U.S. criminal legal system’s primary focus is punishment, not rehabilitation. It is essential that returning citizens have access to tools that facilitate successful reentry such as access to educational opportunities, job training, financial support, and health care services. Access to the tools needed for successful community and workforce reentry will reduce recidivism rates and increase community safety and participation in the workforce.
In this column, CAP argues that the Biden administration can build off its investments and champion second chance policies to further expand their impact. The recommendations include ending restrictions on occupational licensing, increasing access to safety net programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and housing vouchers, enforcing anti-discrimination rules and regulations, increasing funding for targeted workforce development programs, supporting state efforts for automatic expungement of criminal records, and leveraging insurance and tax incentives to incentivize employers to adopt second chance policies.
“Returning citizens deserve a fair chance to overcome their mistakes and work toward building a financially secure and dignified life,” said Arohi Pathak, director of policy for Inclusive Economy at CAP and author of the column. “We must make sure that they have the tools at their disposal to do so. Second chance policies take a forward-looking approach that has an eye toward rehabilitation. These policies will benefit returning citizens, support successful reentry into our communities, and strengthen our workforce.”
Read the column here: “Second Chance Policies Help Individuals Leaving Incarceration Build Financial Security” by Arohi Pathak
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