During a hearing on January 31, 2018, the State Senate voted to confirm Christopher Poulos, a Civil Survival Board member, as the first executive director of the Statewide Reentry Council. The Senate’s approval marks one of the final steps necessary for his confirmation. The Reentry Council was created by the legislature in 2016 and is charged with advising the legislative and executive branches on measure to improve successful reentry in our state. Mr. Poulos’ hearing was attended by scores of supporters, which the Chair acknowledged as further evidence the Senate made the right choice for director.
Mr. Poulos testified about his journey from incarceration to law school as well as finding his personal and professional passion to help justice involved individuals and those facing mental health challenges. He described becoming involved with substance abuse after a series of tragedies during his senior year in high school. He eventually began selling drugs to support his habit. At 24 he was able to find help and achieved recovery from his addiction. During his rehabilitation he was indicted on charges stemming from his prior drug involvement and was incarcerated.
During his time in prison, Mr. Poulos sought ways to help others with reentry and addiction issues. He saw that his privilege as a white male with means meant that he could afford a private attorney, which made a huge difference in his own case but was not available to others. He decided to become an attorney to help address some of the injustices he saw. Mr. Poulos ultimately went to college and law school, where he worked on reentry and criminal justice reform issues. He has worked on legislation relating to drug possession, including access to prevention and recovery, at the state and local level as well as the national level at the Office of National Drug Control Policy and in collaboration with the Department of Justice.
Mr. Poulos emphasized that there is hope after incarceration. When people are given the opportunity to address their underlying issues and given resources for basic needs like housing, healthcare, employment and education it can break generational cycles of untreated substance abuse, mental health issues and incarceration. Mr. Poulos ended his testimony by saying we have an amazing opportunity in Washington to develop a model that can be emulated around the country and beyond.
The Chairwoman concluded the hearing by commenting that she had never seen a similar number of supporters attend a Senate confirmation hearing. She thanked Mr. Poulos and said the senators were honored to see him and to see how much support there is for his confirmation. She said that with Mr. Poulos leading the Statewide Reentry Council we have a great opportunity to make reentry more positive and successful. Mr. Poulos’ appointment was placed on the Senate Floor calendar for final approval.