To facilitate a permanent return home for people with criminal convictions, the Institute, and its initiative, the Integrated Justice Alliance, championed three historic pieces of legislation designed to, among other things, lift the felony drug ban on public assistance; require the Department of Corrections (DOC) to issue valid identification; and call for the DOC to provide additional educational opportunities to incarcerated individuals.

The Institute and its initiative, the Integrated Justice Alliance, also successfully championed the historic passage of the New Jersey Opportunity to Compete Act (OCA or “ban the box”). The significant measure defers the point at which employers can ask job applicants about their criminal background until after the first interview, giving applicants an opportunity to meet potential employers face to face and present their skills and qualifications without criminal convictions clouding the employer’s first impression.

I’m taking action to “ban the box” - President Barack Obama

In a recent significant speech during his visit to Newark, President Barack Obama announced that he would direct federal agencies through an executive action to “ban the box” — eliminating criminal history questions on some government job applications.

President Obama’s announcement builds on the pioneering work of the Institute and its partners in banning the box in New Jersey with the passage of the OCA. President Obama’s executive action also follows Senator Cory Booker and Representative Elijah Cummings’ introduction of the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2015, federal legislation similar to New Jersey’s OCA.

Employment is the single most important influence on decreasing recidivism.

Our Work: Economic Mobility

The Institute’s reentry work is focused on ensuring that when laws like OCA are passed, they are also enforced and, where required, strengthened. 

  • Even after completing their sentences, New Jersey imposes 1,000 collateral consequences on people with criminal convictions—more than 600 affect employment opportunities.

  • Criminal records decrease employer call-backs by two-thirds for Black male applicants.
  • Just 8% of employment positions are open to people with criminal records.


To ensure that the goals of the Second Chance legislation and the Opportunity to Compete Act are realized, and to generate policy recommendations for the development of meaningful reentry legislation going forward, the Institute plans to launch Reentry Roundtable 2.0.  This initiative, modeled in large part on the New Jersey Reentry Roundtable, will provide an updated evaluation of the current state of reentry in New Jersey in order to inform what more could be done to guarantee the successful reentry of all of the state’s formerly incarcerated residents.

We will not stop until all citizens are welcomed home to their communities with a pathway to success, rather than being met with unlimited roadblocks that lead to recidivism.