The Washington Post story “It Does Not Have To Be This Way” covers a report by the Council for Court Excellence, a nonprofit that advocates for improvements to the city’s criminal justice system. According to the report, 1 in 22 adults in the District are “under some form of correctional control,” including jail or probation. Prisoners are often housed in federal facilities as far away as the West Coast, and those returning face a variety of challenges that returning citizens elsewhere simply do not confront, particularly given the situation on the ground in DC, an expensive city where many jobs require a college education. More than 1 in 5 employed returning citizens lack stable housing when they return to the community, and those who were unemployed were even more likely to stay in homeless shelters or on the street.
The recommendations in the report include establishing an ombudsman position focused on D.C. correctional issues, limiting halfway houses charges for “subsistence fees,”having correctional facilities help returning citizens apply for housing up to 90 days before release, and passing legislation preventing landlords from discriminating against those with criminal records.
The District’s “ban the box” law, which prevents employers from screening out job applicants based on criminal convictions, isn’t sufficient, the report says.”You can ‘Ban the Box,’ but you can’t ban Google,” said one returning citizen.