Pubdate: Thu, 29 Oct 2015
Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
Copyright: 2015 The News and Observer Publishing Company
Author: Erin Roesch
Note: Erin Roesch is director of Development & Employer Recruitment 
at StepUp Ministry in Durham.


It costs approximately $80 a day to house a person in a North 
Carolina prison. With over 37,000 people serving time in our state, 
officials have understandably prioritized reducing prison populations 
with considerable gusto over the past decade. While many of those 
efforts have been successful, the effect of one particular change has 
yet to be seen - that of the U.S. Sentencing Commission's unanimous 
decision to reduce the sentencing guidelines for most federal drug 
trafficking charges beginning Sunday.

That's right. North Carolina has only days left until this change takes effect.

Officials estimate that approximately 1,200 men and women will return 
to their communities in Raleigh and Durham over the course of 2016. 
Overall, this is great news. Families will be reunited, and 
individuals will begin rebuilding lives that were put on hold for 
years and, for some, decades.

The success of those re-entering, however, is not certain. The ABA 
Criminal Justice Section estimates that there are approximately 
17,000 collateral consequences to having a criminal record, the 
majority of which affect one's ability to secure two of the most 
basic necessities: employment and housing. Without a safe place to 
stay and a legitimate source of income, one's chances of recidivating 

We, the people of North Carolina, need to carefully consider how we 
will welcome these returning citizens. More specifically, we need to 
ask ourselves how we plan to lower the barriers to their re-entry.

After working with re-entering men and women for several years now, I 
have come to appreciate that sheer willpower on the part of a 
re-entering individual is not enough to ensure successful 
reintegration. Business owners must consider how their hiring 
practices affect people's ability to support their families. 
Landlords must consider how their housing policies prevent men and 
women from finding a safe, affordable place to lay their heads. Faith 
leaders must inform and train their communities on how to welcome and 
support returning citizens.

The health of our community depends on how well these and other 
gatekeepers steward the resources they hold. Will they rent to 
someone with a record? Will they hire a candidate with a background?

I sincerely hope so because the well-being and safety of our state depend on it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom