I'd like to congratulate my co-panelists for a good discussion on how the Right can move forward on poverty issues: Elise Amyx of IFWE, Brandon Smith of Fed Soc, and Brad Wassink of AEI.
I have excerpted parts of my comments below. I didn't give them verbatim, but this should paint a decent enough picture of what I think the role of policymakers should be as we look to take on the root causes of cyclical poverty.
My primary area of interest is criminal justice. When discussing criminal justice reform, there are two key components to think about: “Front end” reforms deal with policing, alternatives to incarceration (like drug courts), and revisiting laws on the books. “Back end” reforms deal with early release, mental health support, and job training after incarceration. If you look at the reforms being discussed among policymakers today, they are concentrating primarily on back end reforms.
There is a lot of talk about “reentry programs,” like regularizing punishments for parole violations, reducing collateral consequences like housing and employment restrictions, and providing mental health assistance, all in effort to decrease recidivism. These ideas are particularly salient today because more than 10,000 people per week—and more than 650,000 per year—are released from jail or prison into society. A large number of these people will be concentrated in economically depressed neighborhoods with little or no infrastructure to support them—further burdening those areas with more unemployed people looking for work and seniors with no one to care for them.
These programs are important, but they don’t go far enough. None of the back-end solutions address the fundamental problem at the front end: The way in which the government treats the people hanging onto the lowest rung of society is a travesty across the board.