ADVOCACY THAT PRODUCES RESULTS

The National Reentry Network For Returning Citizens (NRNRC) is in the process of building and developing a nationwide recovery and reintegration platform for individuals returning from periods of incarceration. We are accomplishing this mission through our policy development, continuing advocacy and activism, technology applications, comprehensive job training, innovative programs and community education and outreach efforts.

CHANGING THE LANGUAGE

For years, the media and news has played a significant role in dehumanizing people in prison and returning citizens by using harmful language that only serves to undermine the efforts of criminal legal reform. Words like “inmate,” “felon,” “convict,” “ex-felon,” and “ex-convict” are taglines that follow an individual throughout the rest of their lives and perpetuate the notion that the people these terms refer to are evil, dangerous and unable to be rehabilitated.

Research has proven that reaction to fear-based media coverage of crime which began to increase in the 1980s and 1990s led to more punitive attitudes that had a powerful influence on mass incarceration. Using certain language to describe people who have committed a felony justified the unjust practices the criminal legal system routinely uses while leading the public to believe that it is in the best interest of public safety to do so.

• The NRNRC has successfully lobbied for the name “Returning Citizens” to be used instead of ex-felons. This has given individuals coming home from incarceration a measure of dignity and boost of self-esteem necessary for successful integration into society as well as helping the public to distance themselves from a mindset of seeing formerly incarcerated people as only criminals.

• Here at the National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens, we refrain from describing the penal system as the “criminal justice system.” We use the term “criminal legal system” as it is a very biased system, particularly against those of black and brown color and focuses more on punishment than rehabilitation often inflicting unjust sentences that outweigh the crimes themselves.

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The National Reentry Network For Returning Citizens uses a three-pronged approach to creating and developing policies to help Returning Citizens in their after-incarceration journey. Given that the NRNRC is strategically located in the Nation's Capital, we are able to tap into a variety of political, economical and social resources to promote our cause.

1) Organizational Competency

Having a professional board and staff who have worked down in the "trenches" on a multitude of Returning Citizen issues has enabled us to be a formidable voice and force for Returning Citizens. Every person on our board and staff is committed in their advocacy of Returning Citizen initiatives and priorities.

2) PolicyMaker Access

Given our close proximity to the political seats and circles of power in the Nation's Capital, we have a unique advantage of gaining the backing and support of both national as well as local political leaders and policymakers.

3) Partnerships and Affiliations

Over the course of many years, we have partnered with and become affiliated with with a lot of different companies, cooperations, social organizations, government organizations and civic groups. Currently we are actively partnering and affiliating with over 40 different entities.

NRNRC's advocacy platform focuses on raising the public's level of consciousness to the plight of Returning Citizens. We want to level the playing field for Returning Citizens so that they have every opportunity to succeed as any other member of society. Our priorities in this include but not limited to:

Public Consciousness

  • Promoting and documenting the success stories of formerly incarcerated individuals who are now succeeding in their comebacks.
  • Using social media and other mass information distribution channels to remind the public that Returning Citizens are citizens too and deserve respectful treatment.
  • Getting the public to donate time, energy and money to the cause of aiding and assisting Returning Citizens struggling to make it back to a normal way of life.

Coalition Building

  • Forming partnerships and affiliations with community and civic organizations that can collaboratively make a difference in the lives of Returning Citizens.
  • Getting the backing and support of national and local political leaders and policymakers who can influence Returning Citizen entitlements, rights and priviledges
  • Massing the political, economic and social power of affinity groups who can keep the plight of Returning Citizens a prominent issue.

Individual Empowerment

  • Creating unbeatable mindsets within formerly incarcerated individuals through counseling, mentoring and motivational training
  • Giving formerly incarcerated persons the opportunity to increase their general education and knowledge levels to contend with an ever-changing world.
  • Providing basic sustainment services (i.e. food, clothing, shelter) to the recently released so that they don't slide back into recidivism.

The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens Has been successful in the following:

  • Fair Criminal Record Screening Act (Ban The Box): The NRNRC has been involved in legislation to restrict employers from screening job applicants based on applicants’ criminal history. This has been done by removing the question of whether or not an applicant has ever been incarcerated from job applications.

  • “Direct File” Redefinition of the Child Amendment Act: Members of the NRNRC along with partner advocates at the DC Justice Lab testified before DC Ward 6 Councilmember and the U.S. Attorney General regarding the Redefinition of the Child Amendment Act of 2021, redefining childhood in the District in a way that would start all cases involving children who are charged with a criminal code violation in juvenile court.

  • Courtney Stewart, Chairman and CEO of NRNRC has been engaged in meeting with the DC Clemency Board in efforts to get more applicants convicted of DC Code offenses to get approved and get the process expedited more efficiently by circumventing the Office of the Pardon Attorney and go straight to the Department of Justice and the White House. He has also successfully pushed to get the DC Clemency Board to place a returning citizen on the board and he himself has been nominated for that position.

  • Partnering with DC Justice Lab, the NRNRC is involved in implementing the RESTORE Act which obtains relief for returning citizens by supporting criminal record sealing and expungement, thus removing barriers that make it difficult for returning citizens to obtain stable housing and employment.

  • The NRNRC is petitioning the Mayor and DC Councilmembers to reinstate a DC Parole Board that will result in DC Code violators coming home sooner and possibly not having to be placed on supervised release which is in effect a second sentence.

  • The NRNRC is building a coalition of returning citizens to be advocates to address issues and barriers that effect not only individuals who are coming home from incarceration but also the individuals who are still locked up. Courtney Stewart as well as staff members have been engaged in hearings with Councilmembers to enact policy changes to benefit returning citizens.

Community-Led Preventive Model

This model uses a mustard-seed approach to engage the community to determine their needs and address instances of harm. This is a preventive model, with the aim to reduce interactions with the criminal legal system before they can occur. Returning citizens are trained in circle-keeping, and work with the community to build trust and relationships.

Advocacy Training

The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens is excited to announce that we will be hosting an advocacy training on February 12th! This event is designed for returning citizens and other community members who want to get involved in advocacy efforts but don't know how to begin. Get involved with current events and legislation that impacts your community. Join The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens to learn how to vocalize your concerns and experiences! Speak up, share your story, make a difference.

Worker's Rights

This service consists of a series of sessions for returning citizens and community members. Hosted by The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens and in partnership with the Washington Lawyers Committee. Workers’ Rights programming is meant to shed light on the extent of personal rights someone possesses in the workplace, provide information about what is legal for employers to do, and help secure resources for people who believe their rights have been violated.

Safe and Free DC

We support the 18 bills contained in the Solutions for a #SafeAndFreeDC legislative agenda and are committed to advancing true safety and freedom for all in our own work, collaborations, and the movement at large.

Unlock the Box

We are a part of a coalition of organizations and movement leaders who partner with state and local campaigns across the United States with the common goal of ending the use of solitary confinement for all people. Solitary confinement is defined by the UN as a form of “torture” and has been proven to have significant detrimental effects on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing
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