April is Second Chance Month and, with that, we celebrate the important role legal aid organizations and public defense providers can play in helping people with criminal records. There are tens of thousands civil collateral consequences of having a criminal record, such as having to disclose prior convictions on job applications, difficulty securing an occupational license, or losing one’s drivers’ license. Receiving legal services can help stabilize housing and reduce barriers to employment for the almost 75 million, or one-in-three, American adults facing these consequences.
In 2014, Tracey Jones celebrated ten years working at the same daycare center. There is no question that Tracey is meant to work with children. Walk down Courtlandt Avenue with her, and you will hear kids yelling, “Hi, Miss Tracey!” When she hears the greeting, she stops what she’s doing and opens her arms. She scoops them up, remembers their names, the last time she babysat them, and in a few cases, the last time she babysat their parents.
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.
April is “Second Chance Month,” and JPO is proud to partner with Prison Fellowship and other organizations to celebrate it. In this blog post, we explore the role public defense providers play in helping their clients achieve second chances.
When I first joined the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) as an investigator, my understanding of the roles of defense attorneys and investigators was limited and confined by the courtroom; I thought that defense attorneys and investigators worked on behalf of their clients during the pre-trial phase, trial, and that their work concluded at case disposition. At the conclusion of one case, attention turned to the next client, and the cycle began again. It was only after I began my journey at PDS that I learned about the powerful impact defense attorneys play after case disposition and in reentry. Continue reading “Defense Doesn’t End at Disposition”
April is Second Chance Month, so I felt it was only appropriate to discuss how the juvenile justice system is built on the idea of providing second (and third and fourth) chances to a population that has difficulty discerning between wrong and right. For those of us passionate about juvenile justice reform, we like to refer to this month instead as “As-Many-Chances-As-It-Takes Month.” We believe that every month should honor a clean slate.
Sixty-five million Americans have a criminal record. That is 65 million people living with barriers to employment, education, housing, and other key assets needed to build a life. To raise awareness about the limits placed on formerly incarcerated people re-entering society, the Justice Programs Office (JPO) has joined other organizations in declaring April 2018 “Second Chance Month.” During my time at JPO, my work has focused on substance use issues, and I have witnessed the added stigma given to those with substance use disorders in the criminal justice system. Labeling a person as an “addict” and a “criminal” effectively reduces their humanity and serves as justification for denying them support services. This stigma is something treatment courts actively work against. These specialized court programs are designed to recognize the dignity of every person and provide them with an opportunity for a second chance. Continue reading “Overcoming Stigma with Treatment Courts”
No one deserves to be labeled for the rest of their lives for an act they did at their lowest or toughest moment, I’ve heard many say recently when talking about reentry. Colleagues in the criminal justice system have been talking about reentry initiatives for nearly two decades, and yet our successes are hit and miss. We still have a long way to go to overcome the collateral consequences that follow too many formerly incarcerated individuals when they return home.