And the Circle Goes ‘Round and ‘Round
Cut funds for job training in corrections for offenders whose lack of training was one reason they ended up in corrections, then release them into a bad job market, and then keep their cell ready for when they come back. 02/18/10.
Latest from the Urban Institute
A friend sends along the latest newsletter from the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, which includes notice of a couple of new reports of significant relevance, which we will conveniently provide the sidebars on below, which means we have no reason to continue adding clauses beginning with “which” now, which will probably make you happy, which is what we, of course, live for.
JPC just released “An Evolving Field: Findings from the 2008 Parole Practices Survey.” With funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Urban Institute conducted a survey of parole supervision field offices to examine the current state of parole practice. Parole supervision has been a somewhat overlooked field in recent years, even as the challenges of prisoner reentry have attracted increasing attention. Parole supervision can and should play an important role in facilitating successful reentry, yet parole agencies must systematically adopt the practices and policies that have been demonstrated to work. The findings of the survey are summarized in this report, and indicate that the principles of effective supervision are beginning to take root.
The Urban Institute recently published a self-assessment tool designed to aid correctional administrators in evaluating and improving their release planning practices. Departments of corrections have increasingly embraced the important role that release planning plays in successful reentry. But their efforts to improve release planning are often hindered by the absence of accurate data and the lack of a systematic method to develop goals and measure performance over time. With funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Correction, Urban Institute staff developed and piloted a monthly assessment tool for individual correctional institutions and a yearly assessment tool for correctional agencies to monitor overall departmental performance. The policies and procedures identified as best practices in the tool are drawn from Release Planning for Successful Reentry: A Guide for Corrections, Service Providers, and Community Groups, a 2008 UI report that incorporated the results of a national survey of state correctional departments, a national scan of practice, and a literature review on the topic of release planning. 02/02/10.
How Offenders Change Their Lives
A new book, with summaries of chapters available here right
now, that shows promise. You can get it from Willan Publishing. Here’s
the abstract of the whole book.
“It is known that many offenders, particularly the incarcerated population, have serious health, addiction, and mental health conditions. They also have poor education and employment skills, marginal housing, and often come from violent neighborhoods and dysfunctional families. They are distinguishably different from the common notions of an average citizen. Understanding that millions of these offenders will be returning to their communities from shorter stays in jails, reentry has become the current buzzword used to organize and control the panic that States and communities are now voicing. The focus of this introductory chapter is to outline a series of studies within this volume that investigate individual identity transformation beyond offenders' criminal selves and how former or current prisoners change their lives from offender to prosocial, nonoffending roles. The work highlights the perspective of the men and women who are currently or formerly incarcerated. Each piece provides an empirical analysis of the interaction between current or former prisoners and innovative prosocial programs and networks grounded in the most theoretical work about individual transformation and change. The chapters in the book are organized into three broad areas of concentration: 1) the nature of identity transformation, 2) the role of programs, families and social support on the transforming self, and 3) how reformed peers use their ex-identity in service to others. The book concludes with a chapter on the policy implications of these studies and ideas.” 02/01/10.
Reentry Readiness Report
Via a kind reader we get this latest from the excellent
researchers at Rutgers:
“We are pleased to share our latest report, "Reentry Readiness Report". The Center conducted a large scale survey focusing on the reentry readiness of people leaving New Jersey prisons. The survey was completed by over 4000 people who were expecting to be released from prison within 24 months or less. The survey examined the needs, strengths, and resources of soon-to-be-released people and what might foster or hinder their efforts to successfully reenter the community. The report's key findings describe the reentry readiness of the soon-to-be-released sample and the NJDOC's reentry preparedness programming, while the recommendations focus on building the programming capacity of New Jersey prisons to build the reentry readiness of people under their custodial responsibility and who will eventually return to the community.
For more information about the Center, its affiliates and research, please visit our website http://cbhs-cjr.rutgers.edu/.” 01/26/10.
Speaking of Offenders in the Community
Word here of
a recent fed parole program in Wichita, The Kansas Treatment Re-Entry
Assistance Court (KAN-TRAC), that’s apparently showing some early success,
although it’s way too soon to have good survival rate numbers. A
“The re-entry court is in its ninth month of operation. But its philosophy is not new.
"We're going back to what we did 30 years ago," said Mona Furst, assistant U.S. attorney and the prosecutor on the re-entry court team.
"We used to try to rehabilitate people. Then the focus became on punishment. Now, we're trying to rehabilitate them again."
The court is similar to drug courts run by state and city courts, and a mental health court recently started by the city of Wichita.
A prosecutor, public defender, two drug and alcohol counselors, two U.S. probation officers and an employment specialist are on the team of people who regularly meet with and assess the clients' efforts between court sessions.
The team utilizes rewards for good behavior and tries to teach skills for maintaining a crime-free lifestyle.
There is no parole from federal prison, and after serving their sentences, former inmates are subject to years of probation. Successful graduation from the program can take one year off their probation.”
(h/t The Crime Report). 01/04/10.
Good story here on
an effective female reentry program in Denver, called “Making Choices.” Below
is the program’s skeleton:
“The program was created by the Denver-based, nonprofit Center for Spirituality at Work, with research gathered from a think tank convened for 18 months.
The group included experts from business, courts, criminal justice, probation services, family social services and faith- based communities. Inmates work the program two hours a week for eight weeks.
One hour is in class; the other hour is spent in one-on-one mentoring with a female volunteer from the business and professional community.
Making the changes required by the program is tough.
"It's a very scary moment when they begin to realize that if they really want to learn this, it means they have to change everything," said Vie Thorgren, director of the Center for Spirituality at Work. "You can see it in their eyes. It looks like fear."”
They claim an 8%-12% recidivism rate, depending on aftercare efforts. Definitely sounds promising. Like this New Jersey inmate job training effort, despite the fact that many states have put up barriers to inmates getting jobs in the trained occupations. 12/29/09.
Reentry and the High Risk Offender
Reeeaaalllllyyy good article here on the difficulties that high-risk offenders have and pose for successful reentry. Follows one particular offenders but those in corrections will recognize him in others they have seen and supervised. Here are a couple of snippets to get you over to the whole article, which is as interesting and well-written in total:
“Ann Graham, who oversees therapy, job training
and other re-entry services at Catholic Family Center, gives newly
released inmates plain advice: "You're
not good at this, so stop doing it." Williams would agree: During
one drug-addled break-in, he sat down to eat a sandwich, dozed off and
was awakened by a cop. . . .
"If not for drug issues, Williams would probably melt into oblivion" in middle age because "crime is a young man's game," Graham says. "What we're really asking people to do is mimic a middle-class lifestyle with neither the money nor the social underpinning. Some are not going to do it."
She says it's "not impossible" Williams may get into a lengthy residential drug center for the first time. "Really, what's the point of locking him up to the tune of $35,000 a year?"
In his jail limbo, Williams is 50 pounds lighter, his eyes clouded from medication for a 2001 stroke that makes his left side tingle. He doesn't feel he can function outside. "I don't love this place either but it's like an escape from all the other stuff," he says.
"The minute they let me go, I let this insane dude loose to take over and run my life. It's not just the drugs. I buy into the whole lifestyle, the fast pace, the dangers, an underworld filled with hookers, dealers, gunslingers, and I love it. I become a completely different person. You can't tell me nothing."
He cannot fathom what his future holds. All he knows is the past is littered with "crazy and impossible dreams left crushed and broken" while, up ahead, "the road is clean."” 12/14/09.
Incarceration Easier Than Reentry for Most Offenders?
That’s the implication of research cited here. Here’s
the abstract to get your attention:
“New findings in hedonic psychology have implications for punishment theory. Specifically, these findings suggest that criminals adapt surprisingly well to fines and even to incarceration, but that incarceration negatively affects post-prison life in ways that tend to be unadaptable. These results increase the difficulty of using adjustments in the size of a fine or the length of a prison sentence to tailor a punishment to fit a crime. Because such adjustments are our primary means of crafting proportional punishments, and because such proportionality is important to retributive and utilitarian theories of punishment, a problem with their effectiveness could necessitate a rethinking of penal assumptions.”
The Google translator says: offenders adjust to our punishments pretty well, but their later adjustment to returning home is made difficult by those punishments. So maybe we ought to think about that when we decide to up the punishments if we want to max out on both the no-recidivism angle and the retribution angle. (Get that Ph.D. and you won’t need Google.) 11/20/09.
Reentry and Computer Waste
Words you may not have thought of together before, but an Indiana nonprofit
has found success using ex-offenders in cleaning up the environmental
damages caused from waste from computers.
“Workforce Inc. strips electronic equipment, mostly computers, and sells the electronic waste to recyclers.
The company's plan -- the only one of its kind in Indianapolis -- addresses two of the nation's most pressing concerns: what to do with felons newly back on the streets (about 5,000 a year in Marion County alone) and what to do with the toxic innards of discarded computers.”
Details and inspiration here. (h/t The Crime Report). 10/27/09.
DOJ Reentry Resource Center
As part of support for the Second Chance Act apparently, the feds have started
the above-titled resource with the Council of State Governments Justice Center
for states needing info and tech assistance. Here are
some details and the necessary link, thanks to The Crime Report:
“Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, said the grants are designed to help localities “characterized by large numbers of returning offenders, providing an evidence-based process that begins with initial incarceration and ends with successful community reintegration.”Grantees will provide transitional services such as creating pre-release mentoring relationships, housing, education, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, services to enhance family reunification, job training and readiness, and post-release case management. The Justice Department announced creation of a National Adult and Juvenile Offender Reentry Resource Center with a national partner, the Council of State Governments Justice Center. The center will provide technical assistance to states, localities and tribes to develop evidenced-based reentry programs.
Link: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/funding/09grantawards.htm”. 10/09/09.
Gambling and Reentry
Researchers have found proof of common sense links between gambling and unsuccessful reentry (and substance abuse, too). What’s particularly interesting in this work, though, is the realization that offenders who go into prison without gambling problems and thus the likely reentry problems frequently develop gambling habits there and thus the for real reentry problems after release. Which might help to explain the usual findings that low risk offenders may do worse by going to prison than to other alternative sanctions. 09/17/09.
Why Do They Recidivate?
That’s the topic of funded research being pursued in New Hampshire. The motivations should sound familiar:
“At a press conference, state leaders said the study would help the state
ensure public safety, reduce recidivism and cut costs.
"If you're able to reduce recidivism, not only will you save money, but you will save lives," said Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick. Attorney General Michael Delaney said, "We need to better understand what causes the flow of individuals into our corrections system and this requires the type of analysis that this national team of experts can bring to New Hampshire."
State leaders cited a variety of ways the study could help the state. Superior Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn said he hoped the study would help judges make more intelligent decisions about sentencing. Larsen said she wanted a better understanding of how to address prisoners with mental health and substance abuse needs, and how to deal with the number of incarcerated women who leave children behind in the community - children who are then more likely toup in prison themselves.
Republican Rep. Neal Kurk said he is happy the grant will allow the Legislature to make sound policy decisions, and to then monitor the result of those decisions and make adjustments. "This is going to allow us to actually reduce the amount of money we spend on corrections and shift that money back to taxpayers or other essential government services," Kurk said.” 09/16/09.
Faith-Based Jail Program
Those of you in faith-based reentry and rehab programs might be interested in this Pennsylvania effort that seems to be having success. At the very least you find out that the Heinz Foundation is supplying money for projects like this. Check it out. 08/31/09.
Employment and Reentry
The Joyce Foundation has produced an interesting report on employment programs created through the Second Chance Act that might be applicable to your own reentry efforts. Give it a look and see if you agree. (h/t The Crime Report). 08/27/09.
Welfare Reform and Reentry
GOVERNING has a piece equating
welfare reform’s efforts at forcing clients to get jobs, any jobs, with what
should be emphasized in reentry efforts. Focuses on a Montgomery Co.,
MD program where staff belittle the notions that training is important or that
having a criminal record is a hindrance and basically demand that participants
find work and keep finding it until it takes. Lots of good authoritative
quotes from scholars and observers on how effective and worthy all the tough
love has been. (You can almost see Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman
as the leads in the movie version.)
Okay. So let’s ignore the studies of welfare reform that indicate that getting a job is the gateway to other government benefits that support the single mothers who are held up as the standard of that success or how much of that success hinged on the growing economy at the time or the minority who fell further behind because they failed in the reform. The article makes no mention, for example, of whether the former inmates do or will get similar benefits. Nor does the article actually bother with statistics, you know, like the actual recidivism rates of participants compared to matched sets of nonparticipants. Or give us an idea of the offenders’ risk levels to judge how well they compare to the people we’re trying to place in jobs. (To its partial credit, it does offer this: “Nothing is conclusive here,” says Kim Hendrickson, who recently wrote an article on work-first reentry programs in City Journal. “But there are so many enticing things that point to this as the one thing that cuts recidivism and gets guys back on their feet.”) “Enticing things.” Real evidence-based evaluation.
But here’s the sentence in the article that should set “BWAH!!!!, BWAH!!!!, BWAH!!!!” going off in your heads as you read: “Half of the residents there were convicted of felony offenses.” Half. HALF??? That’s going to convince state prison practitioners.
It’s nice that GOVERNING got interested in what we do and that it’s calling attention to programs and offenders and the true and real importance of jobs in effective reentry. Maybe next time they can go beyond a sample of one and find some programs that those of us with 100% felons would be able to replicate. Let’s make ourselves available for the interviews. 08/14/09.