People For the American Way

The Progressive Happy Hour: Community Reintegration as a Social Justice Issue

News and Analysis
The Progressive Happy Hour: Community Reintegration as a Social Justice Issue

For the hundreds of thousands of people released from prisons each year, what does community reintegration look like?

In the April 6 episode of “The Progressive Happy Hour,” co-hosts Christin “Cici” Battle and Drew Courtney sat down with Shae Harris, policy advisor for the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, to talk about the criminal justice system and what happens when people come home after incarceration.

“We’re talking about 2.2 million people and growing that have touched the criminal justice system, and 95 percent of them will come home at some point,” Shae said. “What does that look like? What are we doing to ensure that they don’t continue to cycle through?”

Shae noted that formerly incarcerated people can face a range of challenges, from discrimination in housing and employment to the stigma of having “an ‘F’ they feel they walk around with on their head, which stands for felony.” There are too many people, she said, who have “paid their debt to society but continue to pay it because of policies and laws that disenfranchise the population.”

Shae said that re-entry should be a top concern for progressive activists: “You can’t claim to be progressive and not deal with this issue. It touches way too many people. The intersections of mental health, employment, housing—all of that is wrapped up in this issue. So it is, fundamentally, a social justice issue.”

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criminal justice reform, incarceration, prisons, The Progressive Happy Hour