Age of Criminal Responsibility in States

How ‘Raise the Age’ laws might reduce recidivism, By Teresa Wiltz, May 31, 2017, Stateline: “You have to be 18 to vote in a general election or join the military without your parents’ consent — and you’ve got to be 21 before you can belly up to the bar. But in some states, if you’re under 18 and you break the law, you’ll be treated as an adult, no matter how slight the crime — even if it’s just jumping a subway turnstile or shoplifting…”

Prisoner Re-entry – Colorado

Homelessness, criminal histories create barriers for those seeking to re-enter Colorado society, By Amelia Arvesen, April 15, 2017, Denver Post: “On paper, Glenn Allan Tefft was sure he qualified for an open position at a Longmont, Colorado, printing plant even with his criminal background. But his spirits were low after he believed he was judged on his appearance during what he thought was a suspiciously brief interview. ‘People won’t even look at you,’ he said a week before the opportunity arose. ‘You can tell I’m homeless.’ Almost 39, a three-time felon who’s been to jail but not prison, Tefft is struggling to defy the odds also faced by 95 percent of the prison population that the Congressional Research Service expects will reintegrate back into the greater community at some point…”

Housing for Prison Parolees – New York

Parolees to go from big house to Syracuse public housing under new state pilot program, By John O’Brien, March 3, 2017, Syracuse Post-Standard: “Public housing in Syracuse will soon be home to certain newly paroled New York state prisoners under a new pilot program.  The state will allow carefully screened and monitored parolees to live in public housing with their families in Syracuse, White Plains and Schenectady, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today.  The goal is to reduce the likelihood that the paroled prisoners will commit new crimes, Cuomo said in a news release…”

Medicaid Coverage for Ex-Inmates

Signed out of prison but not signed up for health insurance, December 5, 2016, National Public Radio: “Before he went to prison, Ernest killed his 2-year-old daughter in the grip of a psychotic delusion. When the Indiana Department of Correction released him in 2015, he was terrified something awful might happen again.  He had to see a doctor. He had only a month’s worth of pills to control his delusions and mania. He was desperate for insurance coverage.  But the state failed to enroll him in Medicaid, although under the Affordable Care Act Indiana had expanded the health insurance program to include most ex-inmates. Left to navigate an unwieldy bureaucracy on his own, he came within days of running out of the pills that ground him in reality…”

Prisoner Reentry

AG Lynch: School system to run in federal prison system, By Kevin Johnson, November 30, 2016, USA Today: “Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday that a school system would be formed within the vast federal prison network as part of a series of efforts to drive down recidivism and create a clearer path for thousands of inmates to re-enter their home communities…”

Prisoner Re-entry

  • Administration aims to fight crime with job training, By Carrie Johnson and Lori Mack, September 20, 2016, National Public Radio: “The Labor Department will hand out $5 million in grants to fund job centers for people coming out of jails, part of a broader Obama administration initiative to help reduce recidivism, NPR has learned. ‘The earlier you start investing in people who are incarcerated, the better the odds of a successful outcome,’ Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in an interview…”
  • Michigan tries to counter boomerang effect with prison job training program, By David Eggert (AP), September 27, 2016, Crain’s Detroit Business: “Few states have been more aggressive in releasing inmates and diverting offenders than Michigan, where a decade ago, one out of every 200 people was in prison, and penal costs were beginning to crowd out basic government services. After easing parole policies, the state managed to cut its 51,000-plus prison population by about 18 percent. But costs kept surpassing $2 billion a year, in part because too many freed inmates came back after committing new crimes or violating parole or probation rules. Now Michigan is trying to stop the boomerang effect with a new program that removes soon-to-be-released inmates from the general population and assigns them to an exclusive ‘vocational village’ for job training…”

Medicaid Coverage for Ex-Inmates

Feds act to help more ex-inmates get Medicaid, By Jay Hancock, April 29, 2016, National Public Radio: “Administration officials moved Thursday to improve low Medicaid enrollment for emerging prisoners, urging states to start signups before release and expanding eligibility to thousands of former inmates in halfway houses near the end of their sentences.  Health coverage for ex-inmates ‘is critical to our goal of reducing recidivism and promoting the public health,’ said Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning for the Department of Health and Human Services.  Advocates praised the changes but cautioned that HHS and states are still far from ensuring that most people leaving prisons and jails are put on Medicaid and get access to treatment…”

SNAP Program – Georgia

Georgia may soon lift ban on food stamps for drug felons, By Ryan Phillips (AP), April 26, 2016, ABC News: “Georgia may soon lift a ban on food stamps for convicted drug offenders after they are released, in an effort to keep them from returning to prison. Gov. Nathan Deal plans to sign legislation Wednesday making the state opt out of a federal lifetime ban on food stamps for those convicted of a drug-related felony. While the federal program calls for stiff restrictions on felons, states are allowed to opt out of the ban. The post-release assistance is supposed help prevent recidivism. The initiative under Deal’s legislative agenda is part of a more comprehensive bill aimed at reforming the state’s criminal justice system…”

Court Fines and the Poor – California

California unveils amnesty program for unpaid traffic tickets, By Kurtis Alexander, September 30, 2015, San Francisco Chronicle: “Millions of California motorists with suspended licenses have a chance to win back their driving privileges at a discount, starting Thursday, under a state amnesty program for unpaid traffic tickets. The state is cutting fines by at least half and waiving late fees for payments on tickets that were due before Jan. 1, 2013, an effort to eliminate what Gov. Jerry Brown called a ‘hellhole of desperation’ for those who can’t afford penalties and lost their licenses as a result. Brown signed the amnesty legislation in June. It takes effect Thursday and runs until March 2017…”

Medicaid Coverage for Former Prisoners – Ohio

State pushes Medicaid sign-ups for inmates, By Alan Johnson, July 28, 2015, Columbus Dispatch: “In the old days, inmates got $75 and a one-way bus ticket when they got out of an Ohio prison. Now, they can get something more valuable — a Medicaid card. Three state agencies are aggressively pushing to get the majority of the roughly 21,000 people who are released from prison every year enrolled in Medicaid up to 90 days before they walk out the door. Services don’t begin until they are released, unless they are hospitalized. Having a Medicaid card means former prisoners immediately qualify for health care, mental-health services and prescription drugs. In the past, ex-offenders were typically released with a small supply of their medications and had to go to county agencies to apply for health-care services, a process that often took 45 days or longer.  Delays in getting medication and treatment are crucial because many people in Ohio prisons have mental-health and addiction issues…”

States and Prisoner Re-entry

States try to remove barriers for ex-offenders, By Rebecca Beitsch, June 18, 2015, Stateline: “Raymond Daughton has been out of prison for 36 days. When he got out he was homeless, had no clothes and no money. All his belongings from his old apartment have disappeared. Daughton, 31, doesn’t want to get into trouble again, so he is staying out of his old neighborhood—one of the roughest parts of Baltimore—and distancing himself from some friends.   The past month has been a struggle of moving from couch to couch, scrounging some cash for a suit and tie, and applying for as many jobs as he can. Getting a job consumes him. He doesn’t care what he does; he just wants to earn enough money to gain custody of his two boys and support them. But he’s worried no one will want to hire someone with a conviction for handgun possession who also served a previous prison sentence.  An estimated 70 million people are trying to navigate the world with a criminal record, according to the National Employment Law Project. Some states, concerned with the high costs of keeping people locked up, are reevaluating and removing some of the roadblocks that ex-offenders face when they are released. The goal: to increase the chances they’ll succeed in society and lessen the chances they’ll return to prison…”

Court Fines and the Poor – California

California governor pitches amnesty on traffic debt for poor, By Judy Lin (AP), May 23, 2015, San Francisco Chronicle: “Calling California’s traffic court system a ‘hellhole of desperation’ for the poor, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing an amnesty program for residents who can’t afford to pay off spiraling fines and penalties that have resulted in 4.8 million driver’s license suspensions since 2006.  The push by the Democratic governor spotlights concern among lawmakers and court administrators that California’s justice system is profiting off minorities and low-income residents. It’s a civil rights issue that has prompted discussions between the Brown administration and the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the governor’s spokesman, Evan Westrup…”

Ex-Offenders and Employment

Out of prison, out of work: Ex-inmates face struggles after release, By Rick Barrett, March 29, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Finding a job is hard enough these days, but finding one when you have a criminal record can be all but impossible.  James Daniels knows. After spending nearly three years in prison for a drug crime — possession of marijuana with intent to deliver — he was released March 31, 2012, only to learn that some potential employers couldn’t see past the felony…”

Court Fines and the Poor – Washington

Poor offenders must be asked if they can afford to pay fines, state Supreme Court says, By Mike Carter, March 12, 2015, Seattle Times: “The state Supreme Court, citing the burden imposed on poor defendants by uncollectable court fees and fines, has reiterated that judges must ask about a defendant’s ability to pay so-called ‘legal financial obligations’ (LFO), and not impose them if they can’t be paid.  The justices found the state’s LFO system ‘carries problematic consequences’ for poor offenders, can impede their ability to re-enter society and can contribute to recidivism.   The high court sent two cases back to Pierce County for resentencing based on findings that sentencing judges, at the prosecutor’s request, imposed costs, fees and fines of more than $3,300 in one instance and $2,200 in another without first determining whether either man could pay…”

Ex-Offenders and Employment

Our criminal justice system is making it really hard for people to find jobs, By Jonathan Blanks, September 30, 2014, Washington Post: “Although the American economy has rebounded from the Great Recession, many people still struggle to find jobs. Politicians blame taxation, trade policies and automation. Some have even singled out the current welfare system. Often overlooked? The many punitive effects of the criminal justice system. Nearly 65 million Americans have a criminal record. This black mark carries with it potentially mandatory restrictions on jobs, housing, education and public assistance. As detailed in a National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers study, the federal government and every state imposes some sort of ‘collateral consequence’ to arrests or convictions…”

Prisoner Re-entry – Alaska

Alaska prisoner re-entry center targets recidivism, By Michelle Theriault Boots, October 2, 2013, Anchorage Daily News: “Each year more than a thousand inmates who have served their sentences are released in Anchorage, often in the parking lot of the city jail. Many go straight to a homeless shelter. Almost half will be jailed for committing a new crime within three years, according to a 2011 Pew Center for the States report. That’s the highest rate in the nation. Now Anchorage, where more felons are released than any other place in Alaska, has its first walk-in ‘re-entry’ center, just a few blocks from the jail…”

Prisoner Re-entry Program – Alaska

Native Justice Center’s re-entry program helps ex-inmates fight long odds, By Michelle Theriault Boots, November 29, 2012, Anchorage Daily News: “For inmates getting out of prison in Alaska, the odds are abysmal. Two-thirds will go back into Department of Corrections custody within three years, a 2007 study by the Alaska Judicial Council found. In the same period, 44 percent of them will be jailed for a new crime, the highest rate in the nation, according to data from a 2011 Pew Center for the States report. That steep climb out of prison prompted the Alaska Native Justice Center to create a re-entry program to help people who have spent years and sometimes decades incarcerated start new lives while bearing the stigma of their pasts…”

Prisoner Re-entry Program – Newark, NJ

From prison to a paycheck, By Howard Husock, August 3, 2012, Wall Street Journal: “Hector Morales might not seem, at first, to be an American success story. At age 50, he works the graveyard shift-7 p.m. to 5 a.m.-at the back of a garbage truck, part of a three-man crew that lifts and loads 80,000 pounds of waste each night in New York City. It’s his first job in years. The native of Paterson, N.J., a high-school dropout, still owes more than $9,000 in child-support payments to the state of New Jersey. But compared with Mr. Morales’s situation a year ago, his story is a success. Then, he was completing a five-year sentence at the Northern State Prison in Newark, N.J. The former heroin addict has spent, by his own estimate, 18 years behind bars, mostly on drug-related charges. Today, Newark-based Action Carting, one of the largest commercial disposal firms operating in New York, considers Mr. Morales to be a model employee and a good prospect for promotion if he completes his plan to get a commercial truck driver’s license. Currently, he’s on track to earn more than $60,000 a year, including overtime. Every week, part of his check goes to pay off his child-support debt…”

Prisoner Re-Entry Program – Michigan

Audit: Michigan’s prisoner re-entry initiative harms public safety, fails to track ex-convicts, By Mike Martindale, February 8, 2012, Detroit News: “A much heralded Michigan prisoner release program is only moderately effective, not sufficiently monitored and lacks proper record-keeping, according to a state audit released Tuesday. The audit is the second in less than a year criticizing the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative, which the Department of Corrections has held up as a successful model of how to safely blend ex-convicts back into society. Corrections officials claim the initiative – which has received more than $175 million since 2007, including $52 million last year – has cut recidivism by giving ex-convicts aid for housing, transportation, employment, health care and education. The 32-page audit focuses on shortcomings and provides support to critics who say the department has put budget issues before public safety…”

Prisoner Re-Entry Program – Michigan

Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry program keeping more parolees out, audit finds, By Dawson Bell, February 7, 2012, Detroit Free Press: “A Michigan prison program to aid parolees’ transition to life on the outside has produced a ‘notable’ reduction in recidivism in recent years, according to an audit released today. The report by the Office of the Auditor General found that parolees enrolled in the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative were significantly less likely to end up back behind bars. The reduction was even more pronounced among parolees who had a history of parole failure before widespread use of the program in 2007, the report said…”