Nearly 90 percent of Americans agree: the punishment should fit the crime. While people are in prison, they should have access to rehabilitation services so they come out better than they went in.
The problem: the debate in Washington, D.C. had become so partisan that neither side wanted to let the other ‘win.’
Van Jones—a leading reform advocate, who had served previously in the Obama Administration—wouldn’t settle for that. We were frustrated, too. Since the early 2000s, dozens of states have enacted reforms that resulted in fewer prisoners and less crime, backed by lawmakers who span the political spectrum. But DC was deadlocked.
After years of focusing on our disagreements, we set aside our differences and focused on common ground. It turns out we have a lot in common on criminal justice issues.
We set out to unite a coalition of policymakers and organizations who also shared this common ground. It eventually came to include everyone from Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and the ACLU to Republican Sen. Mike Lee and the White House, to name just a few.
These partnerships really paid off in 2018, when Congress passed the First Step Act by historic margins—including 87-12 in an otherwise divided U.S. Senate. The once-in-a-generation reform reduced some excessive punishments and expanded access to rehabilitation programs that help people successfully transition back into their communities upon release.
It shows what’s possible when people work through their differences and unite others to do the same. It’s why when it comes to removing public policy barriers, we unite with anybody to do right, regardless of political party.
Sean Pica was in prison when he realized one reason why so many return to prison after they’re released: Many can’t read or write, and lack other skills to qualify for a job. One day, a guard pulled Sean aside and asked if he could help these men—an experience that changed Sean’s life.
When he got out of prison, Sean became the executive director of Hudson Link, a community nonprofit that helps people in prison earn college-accredited degrees and land a job after they’re released.
The results speak for themselves: Less than two percent of Hudson Link graduates return to prison—compared to 67 percent nationally. Sean has already expanded the program to five prisons. Now, in partnership with the Stand Together community, he’s expanding to even more.
Sean shows how national problems are often best addressed at the local level—and in many cases, by people who’ve experienced them firsthand. It’s why the Stand Together community has invested $100 million over the last three and a half years in support of 141 local nonprofits that address the root causes of poverty, including those resulting from our criminal justice system.
Helping businesses reform their hiring practices is one of Johnny Taylor’s top priorities. He leads the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest human resources organization. They found businesses face so many barriers to hiring people with criminal records that many simply can’t, while the stigma attached to people who have been in prison makes the challenge worse.
In January 2019, Charles Koch challenged business leaders to rethink their approach on hiring these men and women. We also partnered with Johnny Taylor and SHRM to launch the Getting Talent Back to Work pledge that asks business leaders to provide opportunities to qualified people.
The result? Within three months, more than 1,400 employers and individuals had signed on. Now, the Stand Together community is working with SHRM to equip more companies with the tools and resources they need to provide greater opportunities and open more doors to people who want to turn their lives around.
Arizona State University Professor Erik Luna saw a problem: while some states had led a renaissance of criminal justice reform over the past decade, without a go-to source of best practices, other states had fallen further behind.
Erik had an idea: unite the top criminal justice scholars from across the country to produce a single, comprehensive source that studies every major aspect of our criminal justice system.
The Charles Koch Foundation—part of the Stand Together community—helped Erik bring his idea to life by supporting the launch of the Academy for Justice. It brought together more than 120 scholars from different perspectives to be the authoritative source for criminal justice issues. Now, their work serves as a resource for everyone from policymakers to nonprofit leaders to law enforcement officers and many others.
The only way to address our country’s biggest challenges is by learning from our past and present. That’s why the Stand Together community supports more than 1,000 professors at over 350 universities, who are expanding our country’s understanding of complex problems.
The Stand Together community is uniting social entrepreneurs to reform the criminal justice system. Policy advocates are working for more second chances. Local groups and businesses are helping people re-enter their communities. Scholars are providing research that can accelerate progress across the board. These bottom-up efforts started with one person, then engaged hundreds, and now along with many partners, they are poised to make a difference on a national scale.
By standing together and approaching the challenge from different angles, we can help ensure justice for all so that every person can rise.
Today’s criminal justice system still has a long way to go. What role can you play in driving more progress? Can Stand Together help you greater your good?SM Find out how we can help you launch or grow your own organization or support the most effective groups in the country.
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There are many ways you can make a difference on the issues you care about most. Partner with the Stand Together community to help supercharge some of the most effective organizations in the country.