When the President and Congress finalize program funding for fiscal year 2018, they should increase funding for three key Justice Department grants that help states reduce recidivism and improve the corrections system: the Second Chance Act, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, and the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program. While these programs have strong bipartisan support and are making a difference in communities, they haven’t reached their full potential because policymakers haven’t provided adequate funding. Some have seen funding declines in recent years — a concerning trend that proposed House and Senate funding bills would fail to fix.
States use these grants to test new strategies or replicate promising innovations to limit incarceration and reduce recidivism. While we need broader criminal justice reforms to reduce prison and jail populations, reduce recidivism, improve access to health care and services within corrections and upon exit, and end gross racial disparities and the over-representation of people with behavioral health conditions, these grants have an important role to play. When implemented well, the grants are critical investments that help communities learn how to better serve people who face extra barriers to successfully reentering the community — including people with behavioral health challenges or histories of homelessness — in turn improving outcomes for vulnerable people and potentially easing pressure on state and local budgets.
The President and Congress should invest in these programs to help states test new strategies and implement promising practices for improving the corrections system.