Every year, more than 600,000 people return to our communities after serving time in federal and state prisons, and another 11.4 million cycle though local jails. Research shows that economic opportunity, education, strong family bonds and civic engagement are the pillars of a successful return from prison. And in turn, successful re-entries reduce recidivism, improve the safety of our neighborhoods and provide economic benefits for our communities and our country.
But for far too many Americans, re-entry has become an all-but-impossible task because of what are known as collateral consequences: The civil sanctions and restrictions that are triggered by a criminal record and continue to penalize returning citizens long after they have paid their debt to society. The more than 45,000 collateral consequences that exist nationwide too often restrict – and sometimes prohibit – access to jobs, housing, education, public benefits and civic participation, leaving returning citizens with a freedom that exists in name only and undermining our nation’s promise of liberty and justice for all. As we continue striving to make our criminal justice system smarter and fairer, we must ensure that those returning from prison come home to a meaningful second chance.
The Department of Justice – and the entire Obama administration – is committed to expanding opportunities for justice-involved individuals throughout the U.S.
In order to highlight our ongoing efforts to improve federal re-entry outcomes and to raise awareness of the many issues facing re-entering citizens, the Justice Department designated the week of April 24-30 as the first-ever National Reentry Week. In hundreds of events across the country – including job fairs, mentoring workshops for detained adolescents and mobile driver’s license and identification clinics – U.S. Attorney’s Offices, Bureau of Prison (BOP) facilities and Justice Department grantees are teaming up with other Cabinet agencies, courts, legal aid providers, public defenders and faith-based and community groups to send a compassionate and supportive message to returning individuals that they are not alone.