What does it take to reenter society after prison? The new Reentry Council is looking for answers.
OLYMPIA –Governor Jay Inslee recently appointed members to the newly created Washington Statewide Reentry Council, kicking off the work of this important group. The Reentry Council will promote successful reentry programs for formerly incarcerated individuals and increase public safety for all Washingtonians. The Reentry Council was created when, earlier this year, the legislature passed House Bill 2791, sponsored by Representative Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle).
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed, but the broken reentry system leaves too many men and women caught in the cycle of recidivism. The Statewide Reentry Council will help disrupt that cycle by creating a system that provides people the support they need to be successful in our communities,” said state Representative Eric Pettigrew. “Since coming to the legislature, I have focused on finding solutions to the revolving door of the prison system, which disproportionately affects men of color. I am excited that the Reentry Council will be focusing on this complex task.”
Over 18,000 people are in confinement in Washington State and 95 percent will be released back into the community at some point. Approximately one-third will be back in prison within three years, and many others will commit new crimes and spend time in local jails. The Reentry Council will combat this trend by helping to coordinate and establish reentry programs that reduce barriers and increase access to treatment, housing, job training and employment so that individuals can become productive citizens.
“The current revolving door back into the prison system is not working and it is costing us hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” said Karen Lee, CEO of Pioneer Human Services and a member of the Council. “This council invests in solutions. It brings together government agencies, leaders in the faith community, social service organizations and formerly incarcerated individuals to work together to help people change their lives.”
The Council will review, study, and make policy and funding recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor on issues relating to reentry and reintegration of offenders. Additionally, the Council will establish and manage programs and initiatives related to successful reentry and reintegration of offenders.
The Council includes broad representation from people affected by incarceration and reentry, including people who have been in prison and organizations representing the criminal justice system, crime victims, employers, and housing providers.
One of the formerly incarcerated individuals who will sit on the Council is Durell Green. Durell went to prison when he was just a senior in high school. Although he now works as an at risk youth mentor and the Street Outreach Coordinator for Partnering for Youth Achievement, a gang intervention and prevention program in Bremerton; the process to successfully reintegrate back into the community took years and was filled with many hardships and roadblocks for Durell when he was released from prison. Durell will bring his firsthand knowledge of difficulties that former offenders face to the Council.
“We must develop legislation and cultivate a culture in our state that does not discriminate against our fellow citizens’ opportunities in areas of need, such as education, employment, and housing,” said Green. “Successful reentry is dependent upon the will and desire of the individual, and a strong support group. We are all part of that support. Instead of investing in prisons, we need to invest in people and processes to assist them. This council will work on not only providing hope to those that are reentering into families, our workplaces, schools, and communities, but help to provide them with the feasible means to achieve their full potential and contribute to society, thereby strengthening us as a state, and as a country.”