The Hatch Center—the policy arm of the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation—hosted a virtual symposium highlighting family-centered approaches to criminal justice reform. The symposium featured keynote remarks from Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and a panel discussion with criminal justice experts that called attention to much-needed reforms in the areas of policing, prison placement, sentencing law, solitary confinement, and second-chance hiring.
“Incarceration inflicts significant harm on families and communities—the building blocks of American civil society,” said Senator Mike Lee. “Many marriages do not survive the financial strain and loss of affection that happens when a spouse is behind bars, and children whose parents are incarcerated are more likely to engage in criminal activity themselves. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. I was honored to participate in today’s Hatch Center symposium, where we discussed several steps policymakers can take to break the cycle of intergenerational incarceration and give families hope.”
“The centrality of the family is the most overlooked factor in discussions on criminal justice reform. The Hatch Center is looking to change that,” said Matt Sandgren, Hatch Foundation Executive Director. “Keeping families together is essential to keeping people out of prison. By housing the incarcerated in prisons that are closer to their families, expanding access to educational and mental health resources, and tearing down barriers to employment, we can build a stronger social support system that will help millions of Americans become contributing members of society.”
“Incarcerated individuals face many obstacles while in prison—but they face just as many when they get out. The hardest one can be simply finding a job,” saidMark Holden, Chairman of the Board at Americans for Prosperity. “Second-chance hiring aims to fix that by encouraging workplaces to reevaluate policies that keep earnest and well-qualified individuals from finding employment and also finding a safe place to live. We’re grateful that the Hatch Center would call attention to the promise of second-chance hiring and many other criminal justice reforms through today’s symposium.”
“By shifting the focus from punishment to rehabilitation, we can reimagine our criminal justice system in a way that benefits families across the country,” said prison reform advocate Alice Marie Johnson. “If we want to keep the formerly incarcerated from falling into old habits, we need to start by keeping families together. A strong community of support and greater access to education while in prison are key to reducing recidivism and giving individuals the tools they need to succeed when they reenter society.”
Today’s symposium was part and parcel of the Hatch Center’s criminal justice initiative, which is focused on advancing commonsense reforms to our legal system capable of winning support on both sides of the aisle. This initiative will culminate in the publication of the second volume of the 2021 Hatch Center Policy Review, which will take a fresh look at criminal justice issues through the lens of family policy. Hatch Center Legal Fellow Chris Bates will be writing this report, and it is scheduled to be released this fall.
To learn more about the Hatch Center’s efforts on criminal justice reform, read this USA Today op-ed.
Read Senator Mike Lee and Senator Orrin Hatch’s Deseret News op-ed on criminal justice reform published Wednesday.