Giving Compass' Take:

• These suggestions from 2015 remain relevant today. There are many improvements that can be made to the criminal justice system to reduce imprisonment rates. 

• How can politicians come together across the aisle to make these reforms reality? Which of these reforms has the biggest potential for impact?

• Find out how California's prison education reform has produced impressive results.

Support Prevention Efforts That Include Employment & Services for Youth at Risk of Criminal Justice Involvement. A key aspect of any prison reform bill should to be to prevent individuals, particularly at risk young men, from entering the criminal justice system in the first place.

Support Pre-Release Strategies that Offer Education and Training. A primary goal of any prison reform bill should be ensuring that the prison system is rehabilitative. One important rehabilitative aspect of the prison system should be to prepare individuals who will be released to be successful in employment when returning to communities.

Support Reentry Interventions that Include Transitional Jobs programs for the Most at Risk of Recidivating. Individuals who have been recently released from prison face a number of barriers to employment such as long gaps in work history and the stigma of a criminal record. These barriers are frequently compounded by many other factors such as unstable housing, low literacy, lack of identification or other documents, substance abuse and mental health issues, and child support arrearages.

Promote No Wrong Door Approaches to Accessing Employment. Because of the complexity of social service systems, mandates of parole, probation, court systems which may create barriers to work, and challenges accessing the public workforce system many people who have recently released from incarceration find it difficult to navigate life when released from incarceration and may feel rejected or frustrated in their efforts to obtain assistance or seek guidance with regard to employment services. Ultimately, this may discourage individuals from accessing support in getting and keeping employment and drive them to stop looking for employment or enter into the underground economy which increases the likelihood that they will recidivate.

Explore the Accrual of Child Support. Approximately 65 million working-age Americans have a criminal record. Research shows that employment is key to both reentry success and to preventing recidivism – both of which lead to safer communities, lower costs, and stronger families. Unfortunately, many individuals with criminal records are barred from filling certain jobs by federal or state laws.

Support Assessment Processes. Evidence from the field and research continue to demonstrate that the use of assessment tools can go a long way toward ensuring that individuals returning from the criminal justice system receive the right mix of supports and services – including the right type and intensity of employment interventions.

Promote Data Sharing Among Systems. Because individuals returning from incarceration often engage with multiple public systems it is valuable to extent possible to have access to data that helps paint an accurate picture of the parole and probation interaction, employment, training, and education levels, past work experience, engagement with other public systems, case management, child support involvement and needs of returning citizens.