OJJDP News @ A GlanceOJP seal
OJJDP News @ A Glance
November | December 2009

printer friendly version button   Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention  ·  Jeff Slowikowski, Acting Administrator
Department of Justice Sets High Priority on Reentry Programs for Ex-Offenders

Young people reentering the community from juvenile residential facilities often lack the support they need to change the course of their lives and avoid the destructive cycle of recidivism. Many struggle to stay in school; others lack the necessary skills to obtain meaningful employment; some may come from troubled or broken families; and many others have substance abuse and mental health problems. OJJDP and the Department of Justice have set a high priority on addressing the multiple needs of these young people by offering services, supervision, and support to help ensure a successful transition.

On November 16, 2009, OJJDP Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski served on an educational panel organized to brief House and Senate members on the importance of meeting the needs of juveniles who reenter a community after a period of incarceration—a population consisting of about 100,000 youth a year. Acting Administrator Slowikowski emphasized the agency's commitment to supporting these youth, citing several OJJDP-sponsored programs and initiatives that have helped ex-offender youth find employment, complete education programs, and keep from reoffending.

The panel was organized by the Youth Reentry Task Force of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition, along with the Sentencing Project and the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The task force also released a research report that outlines current findings on juvenile reentry issues.

Second Chance Act Helps Ensure Safe and Successful Reentry

Signed into law on April 9, 2008, the Second Chance Act of 2007 is the first legislation ever enacted authorizing federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, literacy classes, housing, family programming, mentoring, and other services to help reduce recidivism and offer ex-offenders a chance to lead productive lives.

In fiscal year (FY) 2009, $25 million was appropriated to the Office of Justice Programs’ (OJP’s) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) for the Second Chance Act. BJA made awards to 15 government agencies for adult reentry demonstration projects and 36 nonprofit community and faith-based organizations to provide mentoring and transitional services to adults. OJJDP made awards to 5 government agencies for juvenile reentry demonstration projects and 11 nonprofit community and faith-based organizations to provide mentoring and transitional services to youth.

"This is another step toward the goal of reducing the nationwide recidivism rate and decreasing the billions of dollars spent annually on incarceration," said Mary Lou Leary, OJP’s Acting Assistant Attorney General, in announcing the Second Chance Act grant funding on October 6, 2009. "The Second Chance Act grants are designed to help strengthen communities characterized by large numbers of returning offenders, providing an evidence-based process that begins with initial incarceration and ends with successful community reintegration."

Through a separate solicitation from BJA, Second Chance Act funding also has established the National Reentry Resource Center, the first centralized resource center to serve agencies and organizations that provide reentry programs and services. Launched by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the resource center will provide communities across the country with the latest information on issues related to reentry, including evidence-based strategies to reduce recidivism and comprehensive resources for training and technical assistance. The center will serve states, tribes, territories, local government, service providers, nonprofit organizations, and adult and juvenile correctional institutions. It will also provide needed training and technical assistance to Second Chance Act grantees (both adults and juveniles) and provide a single point of contact for the many individuals and organizations that are committed to reentry issues.

OJJDP: More Than Two Decades of Commitment to Reentry Issues

  • Beginning in 1987, OJJDP supported a long-term research, program development and implementation, and training and technical assistance initiative led by Drs. David Altschuler of Johns Hopkins University and Troy Armstrong of California State University, Sacramento. The resulting model, the Intensive Aftercare Program, supported the preparation, transition, and reintegration of chronic, serious juvenile offenders from secure confinement into the community in a gradual and highly structured manner.
  • In 1998, OJJDP entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the Department of Labor (DOL) to support DOL's Youth Offender Demonstration Initiative, a multitiered initiative designed to support reentry efforts of juvenile offenders. OJJDP has supported a comprehensive program evaluation of one of these sites, Avon Park Youth Academy in Lakeland, FL, and its reentry component, STREET Smart. Findings indicate that participating youth demonstrated significantly better outcomes their first year in the community in the areas of educational achievement, employment participation and earnings, and recidivism.
  • In 2003, OJJDP joined BJA and the National Institute of Justice, as well as multiple federal partners who provided substantial funding, in the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative. A multisite evaluation by the Urban Institute and RTI International is in progress.
  • In FY 2007, OJJDP launched the Young Offender Reentry and Family Strengthening Initiative and funded 14 grants to state agencies and community-based organizations. Fifteen million dollars was appropriated for this initiative, which is still ongoing.