Gov. Roy Cooper issued an Executive Order Monday that is geared toward improving the lives of former prison inmates as they reenter society. 

Executive Order No. 303 aims to improve rehabilitation and reentry services for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in North Carolina through specific directives developed in partnership with each cabinet agency, the Office of State Human Resources, and the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission, according to Cooper’s press release

“Strengthening reentry services for formerly incarcerated people is both the right and smart thing to do,” said Cooper, a Democrat. “Employers are looking for new and skilled workers while many formerly incarcerated people are eager to change their lives, get a job, and join their communities. 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.”

NC Gov. Roy Cooper talking about signing Executive Order 303 which will help former prison inmates reenter society. Jan. 29, 2024. Source: Gov. Cooper’s X page.

As part of the Executive Order (EO), North Carolina is joining Reentry2030, a national initiative that focuses on improving the lives of those leaving prison and those who are being supervised. 

The state has outlined several goals under the initiative that they hope to achieve by 2030, including:

  • Increasing the number of high school and post-secondary credentials earned by incarcerated individuals by 75%.
  • Reducing the number of incarcerated individuals who are homeless upon release by 50%.
  • Increasing the number of post-secondary degrees offered in facilities by 25%.
  • Ensuring all eligible incarcerated individuals are offered the opportunity to apply for Medicaid before release.
  • Increasing the number of apprenticeships completed by incarcerated individuals by 50%.

The EO also has specific directives for each cabinet agency, the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR), and the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission. They include:

  • Increasing the number of second-chance employers.
  • Increasing career services, pre-screening, and informing incarcerated people of their eligibility for benefits, such as SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, and more upon release.
  • Providing resources to educate incarcerated people on the process of obtaining a driver’s license.
  • Increasing work release, apprenticeship, and employment opportunities for incarcerated or previously incarcerated people in state government.

The EO also establishes a Joint Reentry Council made up of representatives from each cabinet agency, OSHR, the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM), the Parole Commission, and the Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice. 

The council will create a strategic plan with measurable goals to improve reentry and report on progress towards those metrics.