By Peter Marcus
Gov. John Hickenlooper will tour a women’s correctional facility in Denver on Wednesday as part of a national criminal justice reform effort.
The Democratic governor has joined with seven other governors on a so-called “Face to Face” initiative, described as a “national call to action encouraging policymakers to personally engage with the people who are closest to the correctional system.”
A bipartisan group of governors has committed to participating in the initiative. In addition to Hickenlooper, the group includes governors from Connecticut, North Carolina, Missouri, Utah, Montana, Nevada and Georgia.
Attorney General Mike DeWine of Ohio is also participating in the campaign, as is Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch of Wisconsin.
Hickenlooper will first hold a private meeting with correctional facility staff in the afternoon at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. He will then meet with inmates before addressing the media.
The initiative is sponsored by the National Reentry Resource Center and The Council of State Governments Justice Center in partnership with the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA), JustLeadershipUSA and the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC).
“The job of a corrections professional is immensely challenging, and often leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, severe depression and other health and wellness issues,” said ASCA Executive Director Kevin Kempf. “Getting policymakers more personally connected to these challenges will not only help the officers, but improve the outcomes of the people they supervise.”
“This initiative has already spread to a variety of bipartisan elected leaders in an effort to create proximity between policymakers and those most affected by their decisions,” added Glenn E. Martin, founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA, who served six years in a New York State prison. “Incarcerated people and those returning from prison or jail face statutory and practical obstacles that are often misunderstood. There’s no better way to inform our leaders of these issues than connecting face to face.”
The Face to Face initiative offers advice to policymakers, with potential action items for them to consider following their interactions in order to maintain a connection with the issues and the people behind them.
“All too often, the wheels of the criminal justice system move forward and leave behind the concerns and repercussions facing victims of crime,” said Mai Fernandez, executive director of NCVC. “We’re hopeful that this initiative will help prioritize victims’ issues, including restitution and recovery, among many elected leaders.”