I love this time of the year, when I get to introduce AV’s summer interns. They are part of the EMERGE Fellowship, a game-changing program in Houston-area high schools that connects high-performing students, many of them first-generation college students, with the resources they need — counseling, mentors, college tours, and help navigating personal challenges — to attend and graduate from a four-year or selective college or university. As a first-generation college student myself, I have a deep admiration for the program and its co-founder, HISD Deputy Superintendent Rick Cruz.
Our group of EMERGE summer interns — juniors and seniors at University of Chicago, Georgetown, Connecticut College, and the University of Virginia —boast impressive résumés and have taken on research projects on affordable housing, bipartisan immigration reform, and racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Read more about them and their future plans in this story by our stellar communications intern, Ivanka Perez of Rice University.
And meet someof the more than 450 members of the latest cohort of EMERGE students, 2021 high school graduates who navigated a pandemic and are heading to Wellesley, Columbia, Swarthmore, and more. You can also check out a video (scroll down) of this year’s EMERGE college graduates in the Class of 2021, one of whom happens to be a former AV intern. William Acheampong (University of Texas at Austin '21) tells EMERGE that his time at the philanthropy set him up for success in future internships: "The experience, relationships, and skills that I gained as an EMERGE intern at Arnold Ventures enabled me to land incredibly formative and life-changing roles with Vinson & Elkins, Accenture, Boston Consulting Group, and the Council on Foreign Relations!" I might have teared up at the revealing “future self” messages some of these graduating EMERGE scholars sent to their high school selves, talking about how they prevailed over everything from “imposter syndrome” to that first C grade. These grads could serve as great inspiration to other potential first-generation college students, and their perseverance in the face of a very challenging year can be a lesson to us all.
Who's Maximizing Opportunity
By Steven Scarborough, Communications Manager
Tremendous progress is being made across the country on restoring opportunities to people with a criminal record. Since 2019, states have enacted over 350 laws to reduce the collateral consequences of having a criminal record, including reforms on occupational licensing, fair employment, automatic record relief, and felony disenfranchisement. Over 100 such laws have been enacted in 2021 alone.
Why It Matters: The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is 27% — over four times higher than the general workforce’s — and removing legal barriers that jeopardize these individuals’ ability to find employment is essential to their successful reintegration into society. Many of these reforms have bipartisan support and the backing of the business community because they also benefit society at large. Improving access to employment decreases the cost of public benefit programs, grows the tax base, and expands employers’ hiring pool.
What’s Next: AV partners like the Collateral Consequences Resource Center and Council on State Governments Justice Center are gearing up for the 2022 legislative session to continue passing laws aimed at mitigating collateral consequences. Some of the most promising areas of opportunity involve enacting occupational licensing laws in Nebraska, Oregon, and Wyoming. In addition, advocates are working to capitalize on the current momentum in reintegration reform to push the implementation of automatic record relief in state legislatures across the country.
Related: JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon makes the business case for giving formerly incarcerated people second chances through ban the box and Clean Slate reforms in this New York Times essay. “An inclusive economy — in which there is equal access to opportunity — is a stronger, more resilient economy.”
Passes Its Biggest Test Yet
You may not believe New York City's mayoral primary was a model election, but it wasn't the voting method that caused all the confusion. The nation's biggest city's foray into ranked-choice voting actually demonstrated many of the upsides of ranked-choice voting.
What’s Happening: The blunders of the Board of Elections were the cause of the chaotic returns, while ranked-choice voting actually incentivized candidate moderation and contributed to a more diverse outcome — and both voter turnout and satisfaction were up.
What's Next: The number of cities using RCV is doubling this year, and Alaska will join Maine in using it for statewide elections. Voters have consistently voted for the change, often by large margins. The math may seem wonky, but the results continue to show that candidates who are satisfactory to many rather than polarizing to a few tend to prevail.
The Medicare Trustees’ Report on the financial outlook of Medicare is due out any day now. The report will detail the current financial status of the two trust funds that pay for Medicare services, the extent to which knock-on effects from the pandemic have depleted the program’s revenue sources, and how long these trust funds will remain solvent.
Why It Matters: The Medicare program provides health insurance to over 62 million Americans, but it faces serious fiscal challenges in both the short and long term. Last year’s report projected that the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would become insolvent in five years, meaning that Medicare be spending more money than it takes in by 2026. In the past, our government has always acted to bolster the trust fund financing Medicare before it reaches insolvency, but no actions have been taken to date this time around.
What’s Next: AV will be launching a new Medicare sustainability portfolio next week advocating for a balanced approach of Medicare spending cuts and revenue increases to ensure that Medicare is able to continue serving its beneficiaries, both now and for future generations.
As an infrastructure bill makes its way through Congress, Democrats and Republicans need to think about the nation’s criminal justice data infrastructure. Whether local courts and jails, or national trends in gun violence, accurate data collection and sharing is critical to running an effective criminal justice system, Asheley Van Ness, AV’s director of criminal justice, says in a letter to the Dallas Morning News.
Why It Matters: Let’s start with gun violence. It is the leading cause of preventable death and injury in the United States and yet our system for collecting objective data about the use and misuse of firearms remains limited, fractured, and unnecessarily opaque. “Without access to objective data, policymakers struggle to craft constitutional and effective policies that can reduce the number of firearm deaths and injuries, whether from accidents, suicides or violent crime,” Van Ness writes.
What’s Next: Arnold Ventures and the Joyce Foundation have called for the federal government to improve and expand the data infrastructure and research necessary to close the gun violence information gap. According to a report by Health Management Associates, this effort would cost $600 million over five years.
Johanna Lacoe of the California Policy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, about a single California Supreme Court ruling that drastically changed the state’s pretrial justice system. The state’s highest court in March issued a decision that said judges must consider a person’s ability to pay when deciding cash bail. Lacoe studied the effects of the ruling in San Francisco County, and her team found that pretrial detention fell, bail releases declined, releases with intensive supervision conditions doubled, and jail populations relatively remained the same. The National Partnership for Pretrial Justice spoke with Lacoe about her research and how the decision caused a “tidal shift” in the California pretrial system.
Our Co-Founder John Arnold writes in The Houston Chronicle about the opportunity Congress has to update our charitable giving rules so donations reach working charities in a timely manner.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are working to win Senate passage of a major criminal justice reform package this Congress, with measures that would build on the First Step Act, Axios reports.
The Justice Department has opened an inquiry into the Phoenix Police Department to determine whether the police discriminate against minorities, use excessive force, or mistreat homeless people or disabled people, The New York Times reports.
“We cannot incarcerate ourselves to safety.”This City Limits guest column makes the case that incarceration separates people from work and family, jeopardizes housing, and subjects people to violence — without increasing public safety. It argues that a plan from the Center for Court Innovation to close Rikers, as well as partnerships with community-based groups, offer actionable solutions.
A conservative group is using the recent rise in homicides to launch a recall campaign against three progressive prosecutors, The New York Times reports, despite the fact that violent crime is up in cities across the country regardless of who the prosecutor is — a fact the article fails to mention.
A surprise $1,040 bill for five stitches? “It really irked me that, it’s this classic thing you hear in this country all the time,” Bryan Keller tells Kaiser Health News. “When you do all the right things, ask all the right questions and you’re still hit with a large bill because of some weird technicality that there’s absolutely no way for you to understand when you’re in the moment.”
The Biden administration is shifting away from the “War on Drugs” with the announcement of funding for evidence-based policies that support harm reduction programs, increase drug treatment options, and reform criminal statutes, Buzzfeed News reports.
Related: In very bad news, there is a national shortage of naloxone, Filter reports.
What We're Watching
“Fireboys,” a deeply personal coming-of-age story that follows incarcerated youth who volunteer to fight California’s wildfires as a way out of their circumstances. California employs nearly 8,700 firefighters — nearly half of them incarcerated. At Camp Pine Grove, 80 spots are reserved for incarcerated youth who will go through a rigorous training program that certifies them to do the same work as professional firefighting crews. Their reasons for applying to the program vary: It can keep them out of the gang environment endemic to juvenile facilities, being a fireman is an honorable job, they can help others, or get time taken off their sentences to return to family sooner. When they are not fighting fires, they work on daily conservation projects. Half of their monthly paychecks, $2-$4 an hour ($1 extra when fighting fires) goes to restitution. (One Pine Grove recruit, Alex, owes $20,000 to his victims.) Chuy’s story may be the most affecting. He shows remarkable talent and drive for this dangerous work and had big plans for a career in firefighting upon his release, but soon discovered that there were insurmountable barriers tied to his criminal record in the way of his goal. It’s a dream he wants so much that he says he would be willing to go back to Pine Grove just to fight fires again.
Save the Date
Aug. 18-20: The free, virtual 20th Annual State Criminal Justice Network Conference includes a panel on the “Year in Police Reform,” with AV’s Vice President of Criminal Justice Walter Katz, DeRay McKesson, co-founder of Campaign Zero, and Kami Chavis, professor of law and director of the criminal justice program at Wake Forest University School of Law. It’s moderated by ACLU’s Paige Fernandez. Learn more and register here.
Ever wonder what a tornado looks like up close? Here you go.
This is pretty cool: The Library of Congress has launched a website and public art project, “Speculative Annotation,” that allows students, teachers — anyone — to annotate anything in its collection through captions and drawings.
We're Seeking Proposals
Our Complex Care team isfunding research into how to improve the systems that deliver care to a population of more than 12 million people who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Learn more here.
Stephanie DiCapua Getman develops and executes Arnold Ventures' digital communications strategy with a focus on multimedia storytelling and audience engagement and oversees daily editorial operations and design.
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