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Gov. Cooper issues order to improve state reentry and rehabilitation services

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Gov. Roy Cooper stands before members of the media following a press conference introducing Well Dot Inc. to the Chapel Hill area on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.

Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order on Jan. 29 that directs improvements to reentry and rehabilitation services for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in North Carolina through a collaborative approach involving multiple state governmental departments.

To improve these services, the N.C. Department of Adult Correction will develop specific directives in partnership with the Office of State Human Resources, the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission and all cabinet agencies.

As a part of the order, North Carolina will become one of four states to join the Reentry 2030 initiative, which tasks states with setting goals that improve their reentry services. Reentry is the process of an individual's transition out of incarceration into public life. 

The initiative — which the Council of State Governments Justice Center launched over a year ago — is a national movement that calls on leaders to take action surrounding reentry by setting specific goals, Nina Salomon, the deputy division director of corrections and reentry at the CSG Justice Center, said.

Salomon said Reentry 2030 uses what states and local jurisdictions are doing well for reentry, scales up what works and improves collaboration across agencies, allowing them to work together to ensure reentry is human-centered and equitable.

“To make sure that each individual is successfully reintegrated requires a lot of different moving pieces that the Department of Corrections can’t really be responsible for, and so it really takes a collaborative effort across each of these agencies,” Salomon said. 

By 2030, the state is committed to providing reentry assistance to people in every county through local reentry councils, according to the executive order.

As a part of its whole-of-government approach, the order established the Joint Reentry 2030 Council, which will develop a multi-agency strategic plan led by the DAC as part of a coordinated effort with all cabinet agencies to develop strategies to achieve its Reentry 2030 goals. 

The council will publish an annual progress report on how the strategies and metrics established in the original plan are working and may add additional strategies if they are needed.

“They made those goals public, they’re more transparent about them and they're committed to working across service systems and across agencies at the state and local level, being really collaborative — I think it is really impressive to see," Salomon said. 

The Orange County Local Reentry Council — one of 17 across the state — functions as a connecting hub to refer formerly incarcerated people to providers for important services such as employment, housing and food, Benjamin Gear, the Orange County Criminal Justice Resource Department’s Local Reentry Council Coordinator, said.

In Orange County, housing is the most important resource for formerly incarcerated people — followed by employment and education, Gear said.

Gregory Singleton, who created the Craven-Pamlico Re-Entry Council, said the state’s highest office highlighting reentry as a concern gives the visibility needed to welcome the justice-involved populations back into the workforce and help economic development thrive. 

“We have to continue to want to change hearts and minds and give people a second chance — that's what this is really all about," he said. “Giving people a second chance to reenter the workforce is going to help out economic development, and that's what's going to make our nation stronger.”

Gear said the plan’s specific goals are encouraging for those with boots on the ground, because it shows the government supports their efforts. 

“This has been what we've been waiting for,” he said. “This has rejuvenated the efforts — there's a breath of fresh air within the reentry community and we are excited to see where this can go.”

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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