April 26, 2023

Reps Watson Coleman, Mfume Reintroduce New Pathways Act to Aide Reentry and Reduce Recidivism

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) and Congressman Kweisi Mfume (MD-07) introduced the New Pathways Act. This legislation would help formerly incarcerated Americans to re-enter society by requiring the Bureau of Prisons to help these individuals obtain government-issued identification.  

More than 650,000 Americans are released from prison each year and upon release face significant barriers to reentry. Among these barriers is the need for a government ID, which is a requirement for renting an apartment, setting up a bank account, registering to vote, and other steps necessary to stabilize life for the formally incarcerated. 

“When incarcerated people are released, they are left on their own to create new lives for themselves while simultaneously facing obstacles that are almost insurmountable. These individuals return to society having paid their dues, yet many reenter the world with no access to basic resources required to obtain work or a place to live,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman. “Our criminal justice system as it exists now seemingly encourages recidivism. By passing the New Pathways Act, we can reduce the number of repeat offenders and bring us one step closer to ending mass incarceration.”

“If we are serious about addressing inequality in the United States, then we must take a hard look at the criminal justice system and offer comprehensive solutions. Formerly incarcerated individuals unmistakably face barriers to successfully re-entering our communities after serving their time,” said Congressman Mfume. “The New Pathways Act is a necessary step towards reentry reform and will help formerly incarcerated individuals obtain the resources they need to become productive community members, as is the intended outcome of any fair and equitable criminal justice system.”

The New Pathways Act mandates that the BOP take steps to obtain a Social Security card and a proof-of-citizenship document, such as a passport for formerly incarcerated citizens. For non-citizens, the bill requires the BOP to help the individual obtain either proof of lawful residence or an employment authorization document. 

The New Pathways Act is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). It has been endorsed by Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Center or Law and Social Policy, Justice Action Network, JustLeadershipUSA, Campaign for Youth Justice, The Sentencing project, the Interfaith Action for Human Rights, National Crittenden, and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. 

The bill text can be read here.