TRIP TO D.C. TO REPRESENT HAWAI`I’S JUSTICE REINVESTMENT INITIATIVE
Before I left for a conference last month, I received an e-mail from the Executive Director of the Council of State Governments (CSG) inviting me/CAP to attend a meeting on June 12th of advocates from other states who have also embraced Justice Reinvestment to enhance public safety and reduce their prison populations and to attend a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Hawai`i is still the only jurisdiction where the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) was initiated by community advocates (CAP wrote the draft proposal that won Hawai`i the grant).
My flight was delayed so I missed the first meeting with Denise O’Donnell, Director, U.S. DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, the agency overseeing JRI. The second meeting was with advocates from other JRI sites. Attending that meeting were:
- Mike Thompson, Director of the Council of State Governments
- Marshall Clement, Director of State Initiatives, Council of State Governments
- Richard Jerome, Project Manager at Pew Charitable Trusts
- Mark Mauer, Executive Director, The Sentencing Project
- Mark Schindler, Executive Director, Justice Policy Institute
- Lao Rubert, Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center
- Rick Wilson, American Friends Service Committee (West Virginia)
- Maria Morris, Southern Poverty Law Center (Alabama)
- Laura Sager, Citizens Alliance on Prisons & Public Spending – CAPPS (Michigan)
- Joel Donahue, ACLU – on phone (Nebraska)
- Kat Brady, Community Alliance on Prisons (Hawai`i)
had a really fruitful (although short) discussion about how to move the criminal justice system forward. It was great to hear what other states are doing and embarrassing to admit that Hawai`i has not done much to implement JRI. $1 million was set aside for community-based programming in 2012 and we have yet to see this materialize. And adding insult to this abject failure is the fact that the department and administration have called reopening Kulani Prison implementing JRI! The express purpose of JRI is to reduce the prison population, not to open prisons. Reopening Kulani is fixing a past bad mistake, not implementing JRI. Something is very wrong here and no one wants to admit it.
CAP is happy that something is being done about juvenile justice, yet very sad to see that the administration seems to see it as ‘either/or’ (adults or juveniles) when both systems need major overhauls AND oversight!
After the meeting, we went to Capitol Hill for a press conference in the Senate Judiciary Committee Room. This press conference featured legislators from the t states where JRI is working. Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D-WV) joined Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA), and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to discuss their states’ progress in reducing recidivism and cutting corrections costs. The lawmakers attributed their successes to state-level “smart on crime” policies at that support individuals’ successful reentry to the community, in addition to federal bipartisan and collaborative efforts such as the Second Chance Act and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia was awesome as he spoke about the criminal justice system being about PEOPLE AND FAMILIES. It would be awesome to hear some of our own legislators make this connection.
Here is the handout from the National Reentry Resource Center that highlights 8 states with good JRI results working (Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Wisconsin).