Prison as Punishment, Not for Punishment

When an individual has completed their time in prison, they are expected to go back into the world and start rebuilding their lives. Trying to successfully reintegrate back into society with a criminal record is next to impossible. Individuals are severely limited in job opportunities, education, housing, and loans, among many other things. Second Chance Month is dedicated to highlighting the ways in which organizations are working, and we all can work, to create a bigger and brighter future for the 65 million Americans who are limited by their criminal records. They went to prison, served their time, and now it is our job to make sure they have a fair second chance.

With this in mind, I would like to take the opportunity to spotlight some organizations who are helping to give formerly incarcerated individuals a fair shot and their second chance:

Angel Tree: Angel Tree is a program of Prison Fellowship that connects parents in prison with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts in the name of their prisoner-parent.

Ban the Box: Ban the Box campaign challenges the stereotypes of people with conviction histories by asking employers to choose their best candidates based on job skills and qualifications, not past convictions.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums: FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization fighting for smart sentencing laws that protect public safety.

Innocence Project: The Innocence Project exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

Justice Center: The Council of State Governments: The Council of State Governments provide practical, nonpartisan, research-driven strategies and tools to increase public safety and strengthen communities.

Justice Leadership USA: JustLeadershipUSA is dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in #halfby2030.

National Criminal Justice Association: The National Criminal Justice Association advocate for effective criminal justice policy and funding for justice assistance programs across a broad range of policy issues, from local law enforcement and violent crime reduction, to corrections, victim services, drug treatment, pretrial justice reform, and more.

Petition: Nonviolent Drug Offenders Serving Life Sentences: A petition for clemency for nonviolent drug offenders serving life sentences.

Prison Policy Initiative: The nonprofit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative produces cutting edge research to expose the broader harm of mass criminalization, and then sparks advocacy campaigns to create a more just society.

Restorative Justice Online: Restorative Justice Online works to develop and promote restorative justice in criminal justice systems around the world.

Right on Crime (Texas): National Campaign that supports conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders, and lowering taxpayer costs

The NAACP’s Criminal Justice Program: The NAACP advocates for smarter, results-based criminal justice policies to keep our communities safe, including treatment for addiction and mental health problems, judicial discretion in sentencing, and an end to racial disparities at all levels of the system.

The National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC): NRRC provides individualized and strategic guidance to recipients of Second Chance Act grants in order to maximize their efforts to reduce recidivism and help people succeed in their communities after they return from

Second Chance Act Grant Program (SCA): SCA supports state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations in their work to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for people returning from state and federal prisons, local jails, and juvenile facilities

The Pew Center on the States Public Safety Project: PSPP and partners have worked directly with more than a dozen states to help them develop research-based sentencing and corrections policies and practices that slow the growth of prison costs while reducing reoffense rates, and keeping communities safer.

The Sentencing Project: The Sentencing Project promotes reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.

Vera Institute of Justice: The Vera Institute aims to drive change. To urgently build and improve justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities.

Women In Prison Project: The Women in Prison Project works to reduce the use of incarceration for women, ensure that prison conditions for women are as humane and just as possible, and create a criminal justice system that treats women and all people with fairness, dignity and justice.

Kim Ball is the director of the Justice Programs Office.