Right on Crime Director Derek Cohen went on air with KXAN’s Josh Hinkle to discuss President Trump’s nod to prison reform in the State of the Union address:
“As America regains its strength, this opportunity must be extended to all citizens. That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance at life.”
Hinkle began the interview by asking whether or not it was surprising to find a Republican wanting to help inmates to find jobs. “I’d pushback on the preconception that it’s a liberal issue,” said Cohen, “We’ve been doing it on a bipartisan level for at least ten years.” Right on Crime, a national initiative of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, has worked closely with the Texas Legislature on criminal justice reform since 2005. Cohen pointed out that the model that was pioneered in Texas is now being implemented throughout the nation. Other conservative states such as Kentucky and Georgia have joined Texas in leading on this issue through reentry programs. Cohen clarified that while federal sentencing reform has been unsuccessful for one reason or another, reentry programs that emphasize public safety is what have grabbed the attention of President Trump and legislators on both sides of the aisle.
Reentry programs can include anything from job training to mental health treatment. Sometimes the difference between a former offender gaining meaningful employment and falling back into a cycle of crime can be as simple as getting the government out of way by lowering barriers to education and occupational licensing. Cohen sums up the goal of reentry programs as, “This is an issue of people coming out of prison regardless,” and asking, “Are we doing all we can to make sure they’re not a part of the frequent flyer club and end up back there later?”
You can watch Cohen’s interview here, starting at the 9:04 mark.