Raleigh (January 30, 2024)  Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 303 this week, signaling a commitment to transforming statewide reentry coordination and improving outcomes for individuals transitioning through the criminal legal system. Executive Order 303 aims to unify state agencies and commit them to measurable goals that will reduce recidivism and change lives.

Each year in North Carolina, More than 18,000 people are released from North Carolina adult correctional facilities. Approximately 95% of all people in prison will eventually complete their sentence, be released from incarceration, and return to their communities. 

“Strengthening reentry services for formerly incarcerated people is both the right and smart thing to do,” Governor Cooper said. “This executive order directs a whole-of-government approach to improve reentry services, strengthen our economy, make communities safer, and give people the second chance they deserve.”

Quisha Mallette, a Staff Attorney with the North Carolina Justice Center’s Fair Chance Criminal Justice Project, says this initiative is a step toward fair chances for all North Carolinians.

“The NC Justice Center has long advocated for more accessible, fully funded reentry services across the state,” Mallette said. “We anticipate meaningful engagement with reentry service providers and directly impacted community members under this new initiative.”

By joining the Reentry2030 national initiative, North Carolina has set ambitious goals which include:

Medicaid Access Before Release:

This initiative would ensure all eligible incarcerated individuals are offered the opportunity to apply for Medicaid before release. This critical step aims to facilitate a smoother transition for individuals re-entering society, ensuring access to essential healthcare services.

Driver’s License Restoration and Access:

The executive order recognizes that transportation is a fundamental aspect for those rebuilding their lives. Resources are being provided to educate incarcerated people on the process of obtaining a driver’s license upon release, increasing their independence.

Vocational Training Opportunities:

The order emphasizes the expansion and improvement of services around rehabilitation, reentry, and prison education, including job skills training and preparation. This commitment to vocational training is a key component in equipping people with the skills necessary for successful reintegration into the workforce.

High School and Post-Secondary Education:

North Carolina, under the Reentry2030 initiative, is pledging to increase the number of high school and post-secondary credentials earned by incarcerated people by 75 percent.

Housing Resources:

The initiative demonstrates efforts to reduce homelessness upon release, with the state targeting a 50 percent reduction in the number of people who are homeless upon release. Housing resources and support are being strengthened to provide stable foundations for those re-entering our communities.

Local Reentry Councils:

The establishment of Local Reentry Councils in every county is a significant step towards providing tailored assistance to justice-involved people. These councils will play a vital role in connecting individuals with resources, support networks, and opportunities for successful reintegration.

Second Chance Hiring Participants:

Recognizing the pivotal role employment plays in successful reentry, the Executive Order focuses on increasing the number of second-chance employer partners by 30 percent. This commitment seeks to create more opportunities for justice-involved individuals to secure meaningful employment.

“This initiative recognizes the importance of comprehensive support for individuals re-entering society,” said NC Justice Center’s Executive Director Reggie Shuford. “By joining Reentry2030, North Carolina is not only setting high standards but also actively contributing to a national effort to improve reentry success and second chances. The proof will be in the pudding, but this is a promising start.”

More information on the Executive Order can be seen here.

Next Steps

The NC Justice Center’s Fair Chance Criminal Justice Project remains hopeful as we see North Carolina take action to transform reentry in the state, and we are looking ahead to the next steps we can take as a community.

We hope to see the SNAP felony ban be lifted and reformed as a part of this initiative to improve food access for people reentering communities.

We also urge our state to pass comprehensive mugshot reform which would protect the reputation of justice-involved people and help them move forward with their lives without fear of further exploitation.

The North Carolina Justice Center has long advocated for more accessible, fully funded reentry services across the state, and we anticipate meaningful engagement with reentry service providers and directly impacted community members under this new initiative. Your efforts and support have made this possible.