The National League of Cities (NLC) applauds the administration and the strong bipartisan effort underway in Congress to deliver much needed reforms to our federal criminal justice system. The following statement can be attributed to NLC President Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of Gary, Indiana:
“While the bill that is being considered in the Senate is not perfect, we believe the compromises made in the proposed legislation take a thoughtful and balanced approach to reforming the federal criminal justice system, which will allow greater flexibility in sentencing, reduce mandatory minimums, improve prison programs and reduce recidivism rates.
The cost of over incarceration, particularly in communities of color, is too high. Families have been torn apart, homeless and jobless rates remain high in many of our nation’s poorest neighborhoods and the cycle of recidivism prevents many non-violent offenders from re-engaging with society. NLC has been working with cities to reduce the number of people going to jail by helping cities implement pre-arrest diversion programs and map out mental health and substance abuse treatment services as alternatives for incarceration.
Legislative reforms are the first step in restoring the balance in the federal criminal justice system, but we cannot stop there. Congress must do more to improve outcomes for non-violent offenders by investing in local programs that look to reintegrate those returning to our communities from prison.
We are concerned that when people are released from incarceration, many of them have difficulty finding a job and a place to live, and more than two-thirds struggle to succeed because of the lack of opportunities. Congress should also consider legislation that would remove some of the federal and state barriers that prevent non-violent offenders returning back to the community from finding affordable housing and well-paying jobs.
We know that sufficient federal support and funding for local programs aimed at transitioning people back into the community can support safe and healthy communities. That is why NLC has long supported the Second Chance Act, which supports state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations in their work to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for people returning from prisons. This legislation, which authorizes federal grants for vital programs and systems reform aimed at improving the reentry process, unfortunately has not been reauthorized for quite some time. That is why NLC is calling on Congress to pass legislation that would provide long-term reauthorization of the Second Chance Act.”
The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans. Learn more at nlc.org.