Realignment and Re-Entry Support

Like most states, California has never seriously invested in helping ex-offenders re-establish themselves in society after serving their time. Because California is now required by a federal court to reduce state prison populations, this could be an opportunity for low-level offenders to be released into re-entry programs. Instead, under what is called “realignment,” many sheriffs are seeking to keep low-level offenders locked up rather than assist in their successful re-entry. We need to fight for comprehensive re-entry support in order for realignment to be meaningful.

Don’t Let This Probation Department Overhaul Proposal Sit on the Shelf

A report on the Los Angeles County Probation Department that comes before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday makes many astute observations, but one in particular stands out: So many reports, studies, motions and reviews of the troubled department have been filed and shelved in the last several years that the officers who staff juvenile halls and camps and who supervise adults as an alternative to jail just assume that nothing will change — and proceed accordingly. Is this one more of those … [Read more...]

As Labor Pool Shrinks, Prison Time Is Less of a Hiring Hurdle

rapidly tightening labor market is forcing companies across the country to consider workers they once would have turned away. That is providing opportunities to people who have long faced barriers to employment, such as criminal records, disabilities or prolonged bouts of joblessness. In Dane County, Wis., where the unemployment rate was just 2 percent in November, demand for workers has grown so intense that manufacturers are taking their recruiting a step further: hiring inmates at full … [Read more...]

A Poet, With Prison Behind Him, Becomes an Attorney

Late Friday afternoon, in a small, sleepy, windowless fourth-floor courtroom at the New Haven State Superior Court, an official cried, “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!,” as Judge Omar Williams arrived from Hartford to conduct the final business of the week. Williams looked out upon two rows of pew-like wooden benches, all of them filled, and informed the public that the court had received word from the state that Reginald Dwayne Betts, age thirty-seven, had been “successfully” approved to practice law in … [Read more...]

The Taxpayers and Michelle Jones

How her prison education saved us a million bucks The story we told this week of Michelle Jones, who was imprisoned for killing her son and remade herself into a nationally respected scholar of history, has inspired waves of admiration. It has also drawn a predictable chorus of resentment, posters complaining on social media that a woman convicted of murdering a child gets an education "at taxpayer expense" while so many law-abiding citizens are crushed by student debt. For a moment, let's … [Read more...]

What Ever Happened to Mass Incarceration Reform?

Though it feels like eons ago, the summer of 2016 promised to be one of bipartisan efforts to tackle the issue of mass incarceration.  Unfortunately, the summer for criminal justice reform dissolved without fanfare into the craziness of the 2016 election.  And, with the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who ushered in a 1980’s throw-back Department of Justice directive on low-level drug offenses, it remains unclear whether there might be a return to a bipartisan approach to … [Read more...]

Life and Death in South Central

We, who are in prison, had to answer for our sins and our lives were taken from us. Our bodies became the property of the state of California. We are reduced to numbers and stripped of our identity. To the state of California I am not Michael Alexander Allen but I am K-10033. When they want to know anything about me they do not type my last name in the computer but it is my number that is inputted. My number is my name. . . . Dante was not in hell due to a fatal sin but somewhere in his life he … [Read more...]

Formerly Incarcerated Struggle to Find Work: Is L.A. County Willing to Help?

“I tried to assimilate. And I couldn’t:' Ex-cons struggle to re-enter the workplace. Now L.A. County trying to help When Lily Gonzalez was released from Valley State Prison in Chowchilla in 2012, all she wanted to do was put incarceration behind her. She hoped to go back to work, continue her education at Cal State Northridge and reconnect with her 11-year-old daughter. “I tried to assimilate,” she said. “And I couldn’t.” Gonzalez had been convicted of multiple felonies for falsifying … [Read more...]

Support Fair Chance Employment in LA County

Show Up for the Important Vote at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors Meeting For many, the worst consequence of having a conviction record is failing to get work after you have already fully paid your debt to society. Across the country, and here in LA, people are fighting back through "ban the box" campaigns. In California, we won breakthrough statewide "ban the box" legislation in 2014 via AB 218. But the acid test is local implementation, and now two of our progressive LA County … [Read more...]

With Prop. 47 Funds, Communities Can Move from Punishment to Prevention

Earlier this month, California reached an important milestone in its fight against mass incarceration: $103 million was awarded to local public agencies to expand mental health, addiction treatment and support services for those returning home from prison. These programs will soon be available thanks to Proposition 47, which voters approved in 2014 to bring common sense back to the justice system. California stopped sending people to state prison for low-level offenses like drug possession, … [Read more...]

When Twisted Justice Stops Prisoners from Starting Over

After Casey Irwin, 37, was released from prison, she worked a string of low-wage jobs that made it nearly impossible for her to pay the rent or put food on the table for herself and her two kids. Irwin's criminal record prevented her from getting affordable housing. She applied for higher-paying jobs, but her lack of education (she dropped out of high school) and history of incarceration limited her work options. Her husband was still in prison on the fraud charges that had gotten them both … [Read more...]