The U.S. Department of Justice, in conjunction with other federal agencies, just concluded National Reentry Week. This was a cross-agency effort geared towards collaboration around helping incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals reenter and reintegrate with society. Reentry Week highlights included a proposed rule by the Office of Personnel Management to “ban the box” in federal hiring and a roadmap to reentry released by the Bureau of Prisons to assist federal inmates with reentry, guided by evidence based practices and principles.
Federal efforts to support reentry are not just limited to one week out of the year. One of the hallmarks of the Obama administration has been cross-agency collaboration to address collateral consequences of justice involvement. The Federal Interagency Reentry Council, the Improved Reentry Education and Promoting Reentry Success Through the Continuity of Educational Opportunities grant programs, and joint Department of Justice and Department of Education guidance around correctional education are just a few examples of successful, meaningful, and impactful collaborations.
The Department of Education has also released a “Beyond the Box” resource guide and Dear Colleague Letter encouraging postsecondary institutions to assess whether criminal justice information is necessary to make an informed admission decision and highlight the importance of supporting all students, including those who have been incarcerated or come in contact with the justice system, toward postsecondary completion upon admittance. This new guide marks a continuation of the Obama Administration’s commitment to mitigating unnecessary collateral impacts of incarceration and helping colleges and universities to design admissions policies that attract a diverse and qualified student body without creating unnecessary barriers for prospective students who have been involved with the justice system.
As part of the Department of Education’s contribution to Reentry Week, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) was pleased to announce the recipients of the Juvenile Justice Reentry Education Grant Program: Opening Doors to College and Careers through Career and Technical Education (JJ-REP) This joint investment between OCTAE and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention grew out of research on incarcerated adults which suggested that participating in career and technical education (CTE) may reduce parole violations and recidivism rates and increase the likelihood of employment after release, in addition to promoting the acquisition of knowledge and skills. While similar research for justice-involved youths is limited, CTE may offer these benefits to confined juveniles as well as adults.
This grant program is intended to improve outcomes for justice-involved youth by providing CTE programs in juvenile justice facilities as well as intensive wrap around reentry supports and services, post-release CTE, and employment and training opportunities. This reentry grant program is comprised of 4 grantees: Shelby County Board of Education, Portland Community College, the School District of Philadelphia, and Saint Paul Public Schools. Each of the JJ-REP grantees represents a unique approach to working with a population that typically has a history of poor school attendance and academic disengagement (Leone and Weinberg, 2012). These grants in combination with technical assistance are intended to build on existing efforts, improve existing or create new partnerships, and serve as demonstrations of comprehensive and collaborative approaches to improving access to education and employment while reintegrating juveniles.
This grant program is truly in the spirt of National Reentry Week, designed to assist youths impacted by the juvenile justice system reenter society, and it adds to the long history of partnership between the Departments of Justice and Education. By using collaborative efforts, the Federal government can leverage resources and voices and move the needle on issues related to individuals impacted by the justice system who also have a need for educational services.