What’s new at the federal level for justice related policies? 

Recently Matt Cartwright, representative of Pennsylvania, presented a bill that would direct federal funding to areas of commerce, justice, science, and related agencies. In other words, this bill will help provide essential resources to advanced criminal justice. House Resolution 8256 has been read twice and referred to the Appropriations Committee but unfortunately, no further progress has been made. Sometime soon, we hope to see this get pushed but we will need your influence!

Within this bill, $131.6 million in grants are being offered to the justice arena to improve the criminal justice system, prevent juvenile delinquency, and assist victims of crime. These funds could potentially have many positive outcomes including reducing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) while supporting families in the justice system, and offering additional community-based sentencing alternatives. 

What justice work would this bill fund specifically? Nationally, we would see:

  • $2 million in grants for the development of child-friendly visitation spaces in correctional facilities.
  •  $22 million in grants to support families in the justice system.
  •  $131.6 million in grants to improve functionality of the criminal justice system.
  •  $30 million in grants for supporting community-based approaches to advancing justice and preventing hate crimes through conflict resolution and community empowerment and education.
  • $5 million for programs dedicated to children with incarcerated parents. 

We would love to see programs that aim to enhance and maintain family relationships for incarcerated parents continue to be funded. Unfortunately in Kentucky, 11% of children currently have or have had an incarcerated parent. That number is disheartening because having an incarcerated parent is an adverse childhood experience which has long term effects on children. Funding for these programs is absolutely crucial in maintaining familial relationships as well as reducing recidivism. If you’d like to know more, check out the resource guide for supporting children with incarcerated parents, which was released this year by Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Kentucky Social Welfare Foundation.

Notably, HR 8256 includes funding for alternative sentencing for both parents and youth involved in the justice system. Community-based sentencing alternatives are beneficial as they are cost-effective sentences that aim to reduce crime, ensure accountability, and strengthen families and communities. Incarceration should be reserved for those who pose a threat to public safety. Parents can be held accountable for their actions in ways that will allow them to care for their children and continue to successfully contribute to society. This would subsequently lessen the likelihood of children experiencing additional ACEs.

While this bill has not made much movement as of yet, there is still time to engage with your federal legislators and let them know why this bill needs to get moving. This bill has many great opportunities to fund approaches that will advance justice, we need your help to keep it moving! You are capable of helping us make change simply by reaching out to your members of congress and letting them know why this funding is crucial in advancing positive changes in the justice system. 

As this is also an election year, be sure to know the priorities of who you’re voting for and don’t forget to register to vote! 

Photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash