Governor seeks to improve reentry for formerly incarcerated people in North Carolina

Published 2:56 pm Monday, January 29, 2024

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RALEIGH – On Monday, Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 303 directing whole-of-government coordination to improve reentry for formerly incarcerated people in the most significant effort targeted at strengthening reentry in state history.

The Order aims to improve rehabilitation and reentry services for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in North Carolina through specific directives developed in partnership with each cabinet agency, the Office of State Human Resources and the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission.

This Executive Order builds on the existing mission of the North Carolina Department of Adult Correction (DAC) while unifying state agencies under the shared goal of improving reentry services.

“Strengthening reentry services for formerly incarcerated people is both the right and smart thing to do,” said Cooper. “Employers are looking for new and skilled workers while many formerly incarcerated people are eager to change their lives, get a job and join their communities. This Executive Order directs a whole-of-government approach to improve reentry services, strengthen our economy, make communities safer and give people the second chance they deserve.”

“After I was released from prison, I worked hard to give myself a fresh start, and ever since, I’ve given back by helping other justice-involved people get their feet under them,” said Greg Singleton, Dean of Programs, Workforce & Continuing Education at Central Carolina Community College and founder of the Craven Pamlico Re-Entry Council. “This historic Executive Order will be transformational in our efforts to reduce recidivism in North Carolina. Thanks to Governor Cooper’s leadership, North Carolina is positioned to change many lives for the better.”

As part of the Executive Order, North Carolina is joining Reentry2030, a national initiative that aims to dramatically improve reentry success for people exiting prison and those under supervision. In joining Reentry2030, the state has outlined several metrics which it is committing to achieving by 2030:

Increasing the number of high school and post-secondary credentials earned by incarcerated individuals by 75%.

Reducing the number of incarcerated individuals who are homeless upon release by 50%.

Providing reentry assistance to previously incarcerated people in every county in the state through Local Reentry Councils.

Increasing the number of post-secondary degrees offered in facilities by 25%.

Increasing the number of Pell Grant partners by 30%.

Ensuring all eligible incarcerated individuals are offered the opportunity to apply for Medicaid before release.

Increasing the number of apprenticeships completed by incarcerated individuals by 50%, and

Increasing the number of second chance employer partners by 30%.

“Thanks to the federal government’s reinstatement of Pell eligibility for incarcerated people, we are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand educational programming in our correctional facilities,” said Department of Adult Correction Superintendent of Education Services Brooke Wheeler. “This Executive Order brings all education partners together to ensure we are providing educational services that lead to degrees, workforce credentials, and most importantly, employment.”

The Executive Order contains directives for each cabinet agency, the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR), and the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission. These directives include:

Increasing the number of second chance employers;

Increasing career services, pre-screening and informing incarcerated people of their eligibility for benefits, such as SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, and more upon release;

Providing resources to educate incarcerated people on the process to obtain a driver’s license;

Providing opportunities to justice-involved veterans;

Improving opportunities involving education, family engagement, and transition services to youth in the juvenile justice system;

Increasing work release, apprenticeship, and employment opportunities for incarcerated or previously incarcerated people in state government;

Reviewing and improving Parole Commission processes around reentry and participation in the Mutual Agreement Parole Program (MAPP); and

Making resources available to allow incarcerated people to communicate with justice system partners to resolve outstanding legal issues.

The Order also strengthens prison education by adding all prison higher education, apprenticeship, and workforce partners to the existing Prison Education Consortium, a group that advises DAC on prison education. The Order directs DAC to ensure, as much as possible, that prison education programs lead to labor market-driven degrees or credentials, establish quality measures and evaluation for all programs, increase utilization of newly-available Pell Grants, minimize when possible the movement of incarcerated people who are currently enrolled in programs, and more.

The Order also establishes a Joint Reentry Council comprised of representatives from each cabinet agency, OSHR, the Office of State Budget and Management, the Parole Commission, and the Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. The Council is tasked with creating a Strategic Plan with measurable goals to improving reentry and with reporting on progress towards those metrics.