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Locked Up and Locked Out

The belief that anyone, regardless of where you start out, has a shot at moving up the economic ladder is a core tenet of the American Dream. But what about a second shot?  For the millions of Americans who have experience in the criminal justice system, this question is far from settled.

Every year, 650,000 Americans leave prison--but many never escape the legacy created by having been there in the first place. From massive debt accrued while locked up to barriers to accessing either jobs or public assistance upon release, ex-offenders are often relegated to the financial margins. These consequences are felt disproportionately within communities of color, which have been particularly hard hit by the extended drug wars that have been waged over recent decades.

Rebuilding a “second chance society” will require understanding the barriers and removing the obstacles faced by these ex-offenders so they can embrace their role as fully participating citizens, workers, and members of a family. Building upon Monica Potts’ incisive cover story in The American Prospect, this event explored what it means to re-enter society when society has its doors shut to you, and how we can strengthen economic opportunity in America.

Join the conversation online using #2ndChanceSociety and following @AssetsNAF. 


Monica Potts
Senior Writer, The American Prospect
Fellow, Asset Building Program, New America Foundation
Author, Is there Hope for Survivors of the Drug Wars?
Joseph T. Jones, Jr.
President and Founder, Center For Urban Families
Michael Pinard
Professor of Law and Director, Clinical Law Program, University of Maryland School of Law
Sharon Dietrich
Litigation Director, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
Adrienne Noti
Special Advisor to the Director, Division of Program Innovation, Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Aleta Sprague
Policy Analyst, Asset Building Program, New America Foundation
Mark Schmitt
Director, Political Reform Program, New America Foundation