The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is in the middle of a tremendous reform of criminal justice policy: for the first time in forty years, there is momentum behind commutations of life sentences. People who have served decades behind prison walls are being granted clemency and released back into society. Simultaneously, a new interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment is allowing hundreds of juvenile “lifers” to be resentenced and often released. We argue that it is in the state’s interest to capitalize on these lifers’ hard-won wisdom and experience. Years of isolation, deprivation, brokenness, and self-reflection—while living outside the law and while incarcerated—have put these citizens in a unique position to understand and intervene in cycles of violence that still afflict our communities. For that matter, those rehabilitated lifers who remain in prison also have important contributions to make. This article offers a blueprint for a role the formerly or currently incarcerated can play in decarceration and public safety by helping to create and operate a reintegration hub in Pittsburgh.

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