Prison reform has been a hot topic for over a decade; however, it was not until 2015 that the first sitting president has had the foresight to visit a maximum security federal prison in order to get a true sense of the struggles of those who are incarcerated today.
Because of that visit, President Obama implemented a criminal justice reform initiative that offered educational services, job training, and the ability to seal juvenile records to offenders in an effort to make formerly incarcerated youth and adults more viable in the labor market.
While these were all necessary components for criminal justice reform (that mainly focuses on non-violent drug offenders) the lack of focus on community reintegration services and programs could remain cause for alarm.
It is important to note, that amongst those who are preparing for release, there is no presumption of innocence, meaning that it is most likely clear that a crime was in fact committed; however, the sentences imposed for those crimes were not necessarily fair and just.
Obama’s announcements of the criminal justice reform initiative comes after the United States Sentencing Commission decided in October of 2015 to grant early release to about 6,000 federal prisoners based on reduced penalties for drug charges. The glaring oversight in this decision stems from the fact that 6000 men and women will be released into their communities without options to participate in society at a higher level.
From what has been shown there is no viable strategy on assuring that the 6000 formerly incarcerated citizens will have the ability to work or attain a higher education once released. It also does not show how the families and communities will be prepared to assist in the reintegration and rehabilitation process upon release of the prisoner.