Mission: Citizens’ Institute is a research and issue education organization, the mission of which is advancement of equal justice under law, restorative justice principles, and development and delivery of the finest civic engagement and educational resources for people with criminal records, families and other vulnerable populations.
Vision: Our vision is two-fold: (1) equal and restorative justice through ending legalized discrimination and family damage enhances the recovery, rehabilitation and reentry to civil society of human beings who have made mistakes and paid their dues: (2) equal and restorative justice as public policy saves taxpayers billions through increased education and employment, family support and cohesion, and engenders precipitous drops in the plague of unaffordable recidivism.
The failure of equal and restorative justice applied to our 92 million American citizens with a criminal record, and their families, including roughly 20 million felons, costs the US economy roughly $70 billion annually, results in unemployment rates of 50% or more, average recidivism rates of 50% to 70%. On any given day, over 1.5 million American children –approximately 2% of the minor children—have an incarcerated parent. Sixty-three percent (63%) of federal prisoners and (55%) of state prisoners are parents of children under 18. Forty-six percent (46%) of all imprisoned parents lived with at least one of their minor children, prior to incarceration. The average age of children with an incarcerated parent is eight years old; twenty-two percent (22%) of these children are under age five. The annual cost to incarcerate an American citizens is $40,000-$50,000. It costs $10,000 to $20,000 to educate the same citizen.
Equal and restorative justice under law for citizens with criminal records is good, smart social and fiscal policy. The central focus for implementing the Citizen’s Institute mission and vision, through our core value of “Changing the Rhetoric of Felony,” is research and development of premier civic engagement and educational resources, with emphasis on educational assessments and identification of legal rights for learning disabled citizens in the criminal justice system. Citizens’ Institute consortium partners are universities, other non-profit leaders, probation departments and prisons.
1. Changing the Rhetoric of Felony. This core value is simple: not all felons are devils. “Mainstreaming” criminal justice reform and the lexicon of prejudice and discrimination
2. Leadership: Contemporary Americans have from malaise or by design allowed greed to convert inequality from a collective, ideological adversary to the accepted Tenth Muse and aspiration. Citizens’ Institute’s leaders are brave enough at this historic juncture in America to shape a better future through first‑class literacy and education for all citizens with criminal backgrounds, for social, equal and restorative justice under law, and for truly equal access to opportunity.
3. Integrity: We must exemplify our transformative purposes with single‑mindedness and transparency, at all times, to enhance the awareness of every policy maker, legislator, judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation or parole officer, and teacher, so that each citizen with a criminal background has the tools to become a functioning and civically engaged part of America’s collective human capital.
4. Collaboration: We will build alliances and leverage knowledge across disciplines and organizations to support criminal justice stakeholders and teachers. Together we will fuel the future of all citizens with criminal backgrounds, so we may seize opportunities not just to function and survive, but to vote and further live dreams we didn’t’ think possible, even in a society that is conditioned to stigmatize and discriminate against us legally.
5. Gratitude: Our Leadership Team is deeply grateful for our privileged skill sets, determined personalities, and broad experience, which allow us to collaborate effectively, with courage to face adversaries, to be inclusive, to break down barriers, and to unite behindcommon goals to create an America with educated, civically engaged and productive citizens with criminal backgrounds.
Background and Overview:
People with criminal records are the most politically unrepresented and most discriminated class of people and constituency left in this country. There are approximately 92 million of us. Read more.
Absent a pardon from the President of the United States or a Governor, there is no such thing as an “ex-felon.” The nasty but often used terms “ex-offender” or worse yet “ex-con,” evoke all the wrong images and sentiments because they leave no room in their message for the capacity of most human beings to reform our character, rehabilitate ourselves, and become productive, employed, tax-paying members of our communities and supporters of our families who need us.
Most people with criminal records are unaware of the significant and potentially lifelong collateral consequences that confront them long after they have paid their legal dues to society by serving a prison or probation sentence.
With some exceptions, America’s federal civil rights laws, and all but a few of the fifty states’ human rights or fair employment laws, and a few municipal ordinances, allow employers to refuse employment to people with criminal records – who have paid their dues to society – for no other reason than their past criminal convictions; no matter how unrelated to a potential job one’s conviction may be, and without regard for whether something like a one-time non-violent offense was committed in one’s youth or long ago.
The evidence is undeniable that access to employment for people with criminal records dramatically reduces recidivism, rehabilitates and rebuilds families and heals communities. Yet, in America, employment discrimination against people with criminal records, is for the most part, perfectly legal.
Where will people with criminal records work upon their reentry from prison or upon completion of a probation sentence? How will people with criminal records satisfy parole or probation obligations that require employment, if employment discrimination against them is legal? How will people with criminal records who cannot find work avoid more crime and repeated incarceration? Most cannot and do not. Most return to prison.
Currently, in America, we spend more money on prisons and prisoners than we spend on education. America, the land of the free, has the highest percentage of incarcerated citizens than any nation on earth.