Before leading the national reentry program Safe Streets & Second Chances, John Koufos needed a second chance of his own. Once a respected defense lawyer in New Jersey, Koufos' entire life changed after pleading guilty to a hit-and-run accident while driving intoxicated. The accident severely injured a teenager. Koufos got his second chance as an advocate for prisoners navigating the often difficult task of reentering and reintegrating into society after they have served their time. With that program, the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, Koufos laid the foundation for his current work.
Safe Streets & Second Chances aims to help people reenter society, whether it means resolving old tickets and fines, acquiring driver's licenses, counseling for drug addiction, or training for job opportunities.
"Our project is both a research and policy project that is intended to reduce recidivism, lead to safer streets and hopefully lead to pathways to employment," Koufos said.
Prison reform is "the issue of our time," Koufos said, adding that it has gotten support from both sides of the aisle.
"What we're seeing is a movement towards intervention, towards smart statutes, and then things that lead to public safety," Koufos said. "That's what it boils down to, is that criminal justice reform is tied to public safety more than any other intervention ever could be."
Through its support of Safe Streets & Second Chances, Koch Industries is committed to evidence-based and comprehensive solutions that help individuals improve their lives and their communities. The pilot program launched earlier this year in four states—Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas—and intends to expand.
"I hope that it helps the next person like me. I don't mean the next lawyer who's an alcoholic," said Koufos, referring to his own past. "I mean the next addict or alcoholic who's on the verge of hurting another person. If we develop systems that intervene, we stop the next John Koufos and then we save the next victim."
Read more about Koufos' story and Safe Streets & Second Chances.
This story originally appeared as a Freedom to Flourish segment, sponsored by Koch Industries, on Hill.TV’s Rising with Krystal & Buck.