Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Inclusion Through Employment: U.S. and E.U Policies for Prisoner Re-Entry
Friday, October 8, 2010
Thank you. I'm very pleased to be here. And I'm grateful to the National Transitional Jobs Network and the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion for convening this important gathering. I think this conference is a huge step forward in changing the way we think about the criminal justice system and how it can work with the human services, health care, workforce development, and other fields to improve public safety.
I've had the opportunity to be closely involved with the issue of prisoner reentry since the late 1990s, when it was really first being conceptualized in the U.S. Department of Justice under then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Eric Holder was the Deputy Attorney General at the time.
Former Director of our research arm, the National Institute of Justice, Jeremy Travis, was the pivotal figure in originating the concept of reentry here in the U.S. Looking back, it's clear that Jeremy framed the issue in a way that has galvanized policymakers and practitioners alike. With Janet Reno's urging, he saw then that unless we started taking steps to address the rising tide of returning offenders, we would soon find ourselves unable to manage their reintegration into our communities.
I feel privileged that I was around when that initial thinking and planning was underway. And it's gratifying now to see jurisdictions across this country truly engaged in that reintegration process. Professionals from across the spectrum are embracing the idea - not just corrections officials, but also law enforcement leaders, prosecutors, defense attorneys - and even victim advocates.
And it's not just criminal justice here. It's also people from the housing, health, labor, and private sectors. They've ALL recognized that reentry is not just about smoothing the way for criminals; it's about making productive citizens out of former offenders and ensuring safer communities in the process.
From the many decades I've spent in this field, I'd say we're actually seeing a revolution in criminal justice here in the United States - and reentry is a big part of that. Many of you are helping to lead similar movements in your own countries. And it's enormously satisfying to see the concept of reentry taking hold across the United States and Europe. I applaud your leadership on this issue, and I wish you well moving forward.
I now have the pleasure of introducing our keynote speaker.
I mentioned that Eric Holder was there when the idea of reentry here in the United States was being conceptualized. He was, in fact, one of the early supporters. Even before he came to the Justice Department headquarters in the 1990s, he had served as a federal prosecutor here in Washington, and he had seen first-hand the destructive consequences of failing to plan for offender reintegration.
He saw that successful reentry depended on linking the criminal justice system with the community - with social services, faith-based groups, schools, businesses, and residents themselves. He knew that without their participation and support, reentry could never be effective.
As Attorney General, he's made reentry a cornerstone of his smart-on-crime agenda. He's championed a growing movement to re-assess our corrections policies to ensure we're making the best use of our criminal justice resources. Above all else, he believes that the purpose of our justice system is to keep crime down and keep people safe, which is really what reentry is all about.
I've had the privilege of knowing and working with Eric Holder for many years now, and I can tell you that he is committed to reentry as a key to reducing crime and ensuring safer communities.
Please join me in welcoming the Attorney General of the United States.
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