Commentary

Cooper proclamation neatly sums up harsh reality facing the formerly incarcerated

Gov. Roy Cooper

Here’s something you don’t see every day: an official gubernatorial proclamation that’s worth a couple minutes of your time. Most such proclamations are milquetoast, of course: bland recitations of noncontroversial truisms that usually do little more than serve as backdrop for honoring a group or individual — a ball team or a retiring politician.

Today, however, Gov. Roy Cooper took the somewhat unusual step of listing some important and difficult truths about an important and difficult subject in a new proclamation. Here’s the text:

WHEREAS, the vast majority of the more than 37,000 people currently serving sentences in North Carolina prisons and jails will transition into communities throughout the state; and

WHEREAS, these formerly incarcerated individuals will be come part of a population of more than 1.5 million North Carolinians with criminal records; and

WHEREAS, helping people with criminal records become productive members of society benefits their families and communities in many ways, including improving safety and preventing and reducing crime; and

WHEREAS, formerly incarcerated individuals face numerous challenges that include finding work, housing, health care, and transportation, and these challenges may lead to recidivism, health, social, and security concerns; and

WHEREAS, federal, state, and local leaders have worked to establish policy that supports individuals who return to their communities after serving time in prison, jail, or under custodial supervision; and

WHEREAS, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety has developed the North Carolina Reentry Action Plan to facilitate a better transition for people from incarceration or community supervision back into society by coordinating existing resources, identifying resource gaps, and advocating on behalf of individuals with criminal records; and

WHEREAS, in 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly established the (SRCC) to be chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety Erik A. Hooks; and

WHEREAS, the SRCC includes representation from government, education, faith-and community-based organizations, and those formerly incarcerated, and is studying the needs of individuals who have been released from correctional institutions and working increase the effectiveness of local reentry councils; and

WHEREAS, North Carolina’s 14 local reentry councils connect justice-involved individuals with resources and services important to successful reentry, and decrease stigma by raising public awareness of the issues and challenges faced by formerly incarcerated individuals as they reenter the community;

NOW THEREFORE, I ROY COOPER, Governor of the State of North Carolina, do hereby proclaim April 23-27, 2018 as “REENTRY WEEK” in North Carolina, and commend its observance to all citizens.

Roy Cooper, Governor

Good for Cooper and the groups doing this important and often bipartisan work to reverse some of the damage wrought by our state’s ill-conceived and decades-long incarceration obsession. Click here to learn more about efforts to promote second chances for North Carolina’s formerly incarcerated. Let’s hope Cooper’s proclamation helps spur another year of real progress in this important area.

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