THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Working together, we have made great strides in reducing crime across the country. The overall crime rate is at its lowest point in 25 years, and America is the safest it has been in a generation. But I believe we can make America even safer for our families. We must continue to confront emerging public safety challenges if we want to keep reducing crime in the 21st Century.
One of the key challenges we must address is ex-offenders returning to their families and communities after their release from prison. While the nation's prison population growth rate has slowed to its lowest level in two decades, more than 1.9 million individuals were incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails in 1999. As a result, an unprecedented number of individuals will be released from prison in the coming years -- nearly 600,000 in the next year alone. Moreover, this population poses a serious public safety risk: studies show that nearly two-thirds of all released offenders will be arrested again within three years.
That is why I have proposed a new public safety initiative aimed at providing greater supervision for offenders reentering the community. My fiscal year 2001 budget includes a total of $145 million for innovative "reentry" programs to promote responsibility and help keep ex-offenders on track and crime- and drug-free. Through this reentry initiative, the Departments of Justice, Labor, and Health and Human Services will target resources in high-impact communities for increased law enforcement, drug testing and treatment, and critical employment, training, and other services to help young ex-offenders work and meet their family responsibilities, including child support. The initiative would fund reentry partnerships between police, correctional agencies, local service providers, and key community organizations like faith-based, fatherhood, and victims' groups. Additionally, the initiative would fund reentry courts, based on the drug court model, to provide critical supervision and services for offenders.
Today, the Administration is taking some important steps to move us forward in this area. The Justice Department is announcing over $57 million in Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) grants to all 50 states to provide substance abuse treatment to offenders in state and local correctional facilities. The Department of Health and Human Services is also releasing child support demonstration grants, including a model approach to improve child support and promote responsible fatherhood among incarcerated fathers in Massachusetts. In addition, the Attorney General and other members of my Administration are hosting a roundtable discussion with state and local leaders to spotlight an innovative reentry partnership already underway in the Druid Heights neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Congress could significantly expand and help launch similar efforts across the country by fully funding our reentry initiative. I urge them to do this without delay. If we all do our part, we can build on our progress and strengthen America's communities and families.