WASHINGTON, D.C. — Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance participated in today’s White House event focusing on the important connection between expanding employment opportunities for people leaving prison and their ability to successfully re-enter society.
Vance was one of three of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys who represented the Department of Justice at the White House’s daylong program on ex-offender re-entry. The day concluded with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder joining White House officials to honor local “Champions of Change” who are doing extraordinary work to facilitate job opportunities for individuals coming out of prison. According to the White House, the Champions have distinguished themselves through their extraordinary dedication and hard work to help those with criminal records re-enter society with dignity and viable employment opportunities.
“Our lives will be better if the lives of the 12,000 people who return to the community each year from Alabama prisons and jails are better,” Vance said. “If we put them in a position to succeed, our communities can be safer and we can put more of our resources into education and our communities, instead of into prisons.”
Vance currently is a member of the attorney general’s Federal Interagency Re-entry Council. Twenty federal agencies work on the council to make communities safer by reducing criminal recidivism. Among U.S. Attorneys, Vance has been a leader in advocating for re-entry programs and criminal justice reform. Vance organized the North Alabama Re-entry Council, through which her office coordinates with federal, state, and community agencies to improve re-entry outcomes within Alabama. The Northern District of Alabama’s ongoing efforts center on collaborating with state and local partners to remove barriers to successful re-entry. Some of the worst barriers are limited job opportunities, lack of a driver’s license, and restricted access to housing. Within the past three years, Alabama has received federal grants to improve community supervision, job skills, and access to medication for ex-offenders.
Before this afternoon’s Champions of Change recognition, the White House co-hosted a seminar with the Council of State Governments Justice Center titled, Pathways to Prosperity: How Public and Private Sectors Can Put People with Criminal Records to Work. The first session brought together business leaders to explore how governmental actions can affect private sector efforts to integrate people with criminal records into the workforce. The second session included corrections and workforce development professionals from across the country to discuss the latest strategies for improving employment outcomes for adults with criminal records, and ways to engage business leaders in those efforts.
Currently, the Council of State Governments is coordinating with Alabama state officials to develop solutions to reduce crime rates and corrections costs through a policy of justice reinvestment. CSG reports that similar justice reinvestment initiatives implemented in 20 other states have resulted in reduced crime rates, prison closures, and an approximate $5 billion in projected savings to state governments.