Part of the challenge of prison reform in our country is defining the nature of the problem and what remedies are available for a cure. More than any other time in recent history, Americans recognize the failure of our correctional systems to rehabilitate. We are witnessing an epidemic of mass incarceration, with almost 2.2 million citizens residing in our jails and prisons. For the most part, we know there is a problem, but what can we do about it?
There is important, transformational work taking place in states like Texas and Pennsylvania, where we are starting to see prisons and jails close rather than proliferate. This is a step in the right direction. I like to think of these as first sentence remedies. This is where law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders and policymakers come together and enact smart on crime law that takes a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform, like we are doing in Duval County. We hope to see more of this.
The Second Sentence
There is a more subversive, insidious cause that we are exposed to every day in our work, and it will take more than smart law to disrupt this cause. The second sentence of the formerly incarcerated is a stigma that each of us contributes to. It begins the moment a returning citizen is released. Sometimes the second sentence is easy to recognize, like the “have you ever been convicted of a crime” question on an employment application. Other times, it is harder to identify, like when we cross the street to avoid a homeless person asking for spare change.
[For more on this story by Kevin Gay, go to https://www.forbes.com/sites/f...erated/#5d6729874a69]