By Karen Stokes
On Tuesday, during Second Chance Month, the Biden-Harris Administration granted pardons and sentence commutations to 78 Americans.
Every year more than 600,000 people are released from incarceration—and for many, it’s an uphill battle to return and reintegrate into communities.
James Morgan is one of those people.
When Morgan was in his twenties, he was affiliated with a gang and involved in a shooting between rival gang members; fortunately, no one was injured.
Morgan was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1996.
After serving 23 years in prison—and successfully completing intensive mental health and trauma-informed care to treat his PTSD—the California Parole Board granted Morgan parole. James then participated in an intensive reentry program.
President Biden announced new steps to support those reentering society after incarceration, embodying his belief that America is a nation of second chances. Because of this, the President is expanding Incarceration to Employment opportunities, as well as the following concrete policy actions as part of a whole-of-government effort to advance employment, bolster reentry, empower formerly incarcerated persons, and strengthen our communities and our economy.
Incarceration to Employment, can break the cycle of recidivism and make our communities safer. This strategy focuses on individualized pre-release education, skill-building, reentry planning, skills-based job attainment, post-release employment, and supportive services, including housing, healthcare, transportation, and subsistence benefits—all of which enhance stability and successful reentry outcomes.
For a year, Morgan took part in a transitional house and said it was basically baby steps that he needed to get back into society and shed any type of attitudes and behaviors that wouldn’t be helpful in today’s world.
“I was able to leave with a savings account which I have never had in my life, enough money for first and last month’s rent and saved money for a wedding ring for my wife. They taught me how to balance my life,” Morgan said.
He participated in a pre-apprenticeship program through ARC (Anti-Recidivism Coalition of California), a DOL Pathways Home grantee. Upon graduating, Morgan immediately received a job in the union.
Leaders on both sides of the aisle recognize that second chance opportunities offer people who have made mistakes and served their time a path to make meaningful contributions to their communities and reduce recidivism. In doing so, we can break the cycle of crime, and allow law enforcement to focus their time and resources on the most pressing threats to public safety.
“If it hadn’t been for the several reentry programs I was involved with, I don’t think I would have the level of success at all and I would probably have returned back to prison,” said Morgan.
“I can’t send enough praise for the program,” Morgan added. “All I had to do was show up and be willing with an open mind. Everything the instructors said has come true.”