On December 5, The Hamilton Project hosted a policy discussion on the challenges of prisoner reentry. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin gave welcoming remarks and introduced U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.), who gave the keynote address.
Federal, state and local governments are feeling the strain of a vastly expanded penal system that supports over 2.25 million inmates nationwide. With 700,000 people released from prison each year, there is a social and economic imperative to create policies that help newly released prisoners transition into their communities and maintain stable employment.
Following the keynote address, The Hamilton Project hosted a policy roundtable on this important issue. Bruce Western of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government provided an overview of his new proposal, which was released as a Hamilton Project discussion paper. Western envisioned a national prisoner reentry program that would combine transitional employment, housing and substance abuse treatment with in-prison education and post-release parole reform. A panel of experts, including Scott Anders with the U.S. Probation Office in the Eastern District of Missouri, Glenn Martin with the Fortune Society, and Michael Thomas, prosecuting attorney for Saginaw County, Michigan, commented on the proposal and offered perspectives based on their diverse, on-the-ground experiences. Brookings Senior Fellow and Hamilton Project Director Douglas W. Elmendorf moderated the discussion.