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WATCH Coffee@WaPo: Out of Jail, Into Society

Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama, describes reentry programs across the country easing the transition for released prisoners heading back into their communities. (Video: Washington Post Live)

Feb. 10 | 8:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. EST | The Washington Post

Some 600,000 inmates are released from state and federal prisons in the U.S each year. Roughly half will return within three years. This cycle highlights glaring deficiencies in the criminal justice system. Existing efforts to reduce the nation’s prison population, including clemency and reentry programs are disparate.

On Feb. 10, The Washington Post gathered policymakers, advocacy experts and legal scholars for live, onstage conversations about incarceration and efforts to assist individuals as they are released and transition into their communities.


The Washington Post: Utah’s Republican Sen. Mike Lee: Criminal justice reform legislation has momentum

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, recounts a story from his time as a federal prosecutor in Salt Lake City that led to his current efforts in Congress to reevaluate mandatory minimum sentencing laws. (Video: Washington Post Live)

AFP: A drug dealer and the U.S. judge backing his freedom bid

"The president has taken great pains in giving positive reinforcement to those he's given clemency," Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama, told The Post's Sari Horwitz at a Washington Post event about incarceration and reentry into society. (Video: Washington Post Live)
Bernard Kerik, former New York Police Department commissioner and founder of, changed his views on the criminal justice system after serving time. (Video: Washington Post Live)
Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel, Mission: Launch, Inc. co-founder Teresa Hodge and JustLeadershipUSA president Glenn E. Martin discuss what's working and what still needs to be addressed to better the country's criminal justice system. (Video: Washington Post Live)
At a Washington Post event about incarceration and reentry programs, Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel, Mission: Launch, Inc. co-founder Teresa Hodge and JustLeadershipUSA president Glenn E. Martin talk about economic and racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system. (Video: Washington Post Live)
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, discusses why the mandatory minimum sentencing for most drug-related offenses is too high. (Video: Washington Post Live)
Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel says now is the time to downsize the incarcerated population and reduce recidivism through successful reentry programs. (Video: Washington Post Live)
Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama, spoke with The Post's Sari Horwitz at a live event about incarceration and reentry programs. (Video: Washington Post Live)


8:45 a.m. | Welcome Remarks
-Lois Romano, Editor, Washington Post Live

Sponsor Remarks
-Holly Harris, Executive Director, U.S. Justice Action Network

The Case for Criminal Justice Reform
-Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama
-Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
Moderated by Sari Horwitz, Justice Department Reporter, The Washington Post

The Long Road Back
-Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel, Pennsylvania
-Glenn E. Martin, Founder and President, JustLeadershipUSA
-Teresa Hodge, Co-founder, Mission: Launch, Inc.
Moderated by Wesley Lowery, National Reporter, The Washington Post

Correcting the System: A View from Inside
-Bernard B. Kerik, Founder,; Former NYC Police and Correction Commissioner
Interviewed by Lois Romano, Editor, Washington Post Live

10:00 a.m. | Program Ends


Valerie B. Jarrett is a senior advisor to President Obama, overseeing the White House Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and chairing the White House Council on Women and Girls. Jarrett came to the White House with a background in both the public and private sectors, having served as chief executive of The Habitat Company in Chicago, chairman of the Chicago Transit Board, commissioner of planning and development, and deputy chief of staff for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. She also served as co-chair of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team, and the director of corporate and not-for-profit boards including chairman of the Board of the Chicago Stock Exchange, chairman of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board of Trustees, and director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Mike Lee was elected to the United States Senate in 2010. He is a member of the Judiciary Committee, and serves as chairman of the Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee. Lee also sits on the Armed Services and the Joint Economic Committees and is chairman of the Water and Power Subcommittee of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In the 114th Congress, Lee began his tenure as chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, where he works with his Republican colleagues in the Senate to tackle issues facing the American people.

John Wetzel began his career in Pennsylvania’s Lebanon County as a corrections officer in 1989. His time there was followed by 9 years at Berks County, where he
served as a correctional officer, counselor, treatment supervisor and finally as director of the training academy. Then, in January 2002, he began his 9-year
tenure as warden of the Franklin County Jail. There, he helped developed a day reporting center, established a jail industries program and initiated several programs targeting improved services for mentally ill offenders. Wetzel was appointed to the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons by then Gov. Edward Rendell. In December 2010, he was selected as Pennsylvania’s 11th secretary of corrections by Gov. Tom Corbett. In January 2015, Gov. Tom Wolf asked Wetzel to continue as the secretary of corrections. Wetzel is a member of Harvard’s Executive Session on Community Corrections, which a joint project of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the National Institute of Justice. He is the vice chair of the Council of State Government Justice Center Executive Board and is a member of the Colston Task Force on federal prison overcrowding.

Glenn Martin is the founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA, an organization that aims to cut the United States correctional population in half by 2030 through policy reform. Martin spent six years in New York State prisons. Prior to founding JLUSA, he served for seven years as vice president of development and public affairs at The Fortune Society and six years as co-director of the National HIRE Network at the Legal Action Center. He is co-founder of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition, a 2014 Echoing Green Black Male Achievement fellow, a 2012 America’s Leaders of Change National Urban fellow, and a member of the governing boards of the College and Community Fellowship, Prisoners’ Legal Services, the Petey Greene Program, the Reset Foundation, the New York Foundation, and California Partnership for Safe Communities.

Bernard B. Kerik, founder of the American Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement. Kerik served as New York City’s police commissioner on Sept. 11, 2011 and was responsible for historic reductions in violence in the New York City jail system.

Teresa Y. Hodge
Co-Founder and Executive Vice President, Mission: Launch, Inc.

Teresa Y. Hodge’s 87-month federal prison sentence introduced her to the justice system and mass incarceration. After spending nearly two years in prison, she won part of an appeal and her prison sentence for a white-collar, non-violent, first-time offense was reduced to 70-month. Hodge’s current focus is on life after prison. Upon coming home, she and her daughter Laurin Hodge co-founded Mission: Launch, Inc., a non-profit focused on introducing technology and entrepreneurship to previously incarcerated individuals as a way of ensuring self-sufficiency. Additionally, the organization founded and manages the Rebuilding Re-Entry Coalition, a citizen-led movement aimed at expanding the borders of reentry opportunities.


Sari Horwitz covers the Justice Department for The Washington Post where she has been a reporter for 30 years. She’s reported on crime, police, legal issues, education and social services for the local and national staffs and the Post’s Investigative unit. In 2002, Horwitz shared the Pulitzer for investigative reporting for a series exposing the District of Columbia’s role in the neglect and deaths of 229 children placed in protective care. She also co-wrote an investigation of D.C. police shootings that revealed that D.C. police officers shot and killed more people per resident in the 1990s than any other large American city police force. The series won the 1999 Pulitzer for Public Service and the 1999 Selden Ring Award for investigative reporting. In 2008, Horwitz was part of a team awarded the Pulitzer for breaking news coverage of the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.

Wesley Lowery
National Reporter, The Washington Post

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter who covers law enforcement, justice, race and politics. He previously covered Congress and national politics. Prior to joining The Post in February 2014, he worked as a breaking news and local politics reporter for the Boston Globe. He has also reported for the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. In 2014, he was named the National Association of Black Journalists’ “Emerging Journalist of the Year.”

Lois Romano is the editor of Washington Post Live, the Post’s live journalism platform. She is the point person, producer and content driver for the newsroom on all journalistic events and the liaison to the business team. She was most recently the editorial director of POLITICO’s live journalism, where she shaped content for the organization’s 75 events including its multi-platform Women Rule and What Works series. Before joining POLITICO, she was a longtime political reporter for The Post’s national staff, profiling national leaders and covering politics, policy and business. In 1992, she developed the Post’s then-new daily personality column, Reliable Source. As a regional correspondent based in the southwest, she covered national issues including the fall of Enron, the death penalty and both Oklahoma City bombing trials in Denver.

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