Special Feature: Reentry

Nearly a quarter of Americans have had some sort of encounter with the criminal justice system—mostly for relatively minor, nonviolent offenses, and sometimes from decades in the past. Whether an arrest occurred recently or long ago, individuals with criminal records, and particularly recently incarcerated individuals, face serious and complex obstacles to reentry.

These barriers can ultimately contribute to a cycle of incarceration that makes it difficult for even the most well-intentioned individuals to stay on the right path and stay out of the justice system.

Across the country, communities face high recidivism rates for a number of reasons. Many justice involved individuals return to the community with considerable deficits, such as limited education, few marketable job skills, no stable housing, chronic health issues, substance abuse needs, and fragile support networks.

The long-term impact of a criminal record prevents many motivated people from obtaining employment, housing, higher education, and credit—and these barriers affect returning individuals even if they have turned their lives around and are unlikely to reoffend.

Reentry support is most critical in the first days, weeks, and months immediately following release, when the risk of recidivism is highest. Even modest reductions in recidivism will result in fewer crimes and victims.

Community supervision strategies that help improve outcomes while holding individuals accountable for their behaviors directly advance public safety objectives. Focusing on recidivism reduction can lead to powerful results.

Young people leaving juvenile justice residential placement also face many concerns as they return to their communities, homes, and schools/jobs. To improve the odds of success for youth reentering the community, the justice system, related agencies, and communities must plan for what needs to occur for reentry when youth enter the juvenile justice system, taking a "think exit at entry" approach.

Best practices include concentrating on those at the highest risk to reoffend, targeting criminogenic needs, tailoring conditions of supervision, balancing surveillance with treatment, and incorporating rewards and incentives.

Research suggests that successful reentry depends on the degree to which formerly incarcerated persons’ multiple needs are addressed.

Skill-building, ongoing education, vocational training (including that designed to keep participants current with technological advances on the outside), and faith-based programming can help all individuals use their time while incarcerated productively and ease the challenges of reentry upon release.

A consensus is emerging in the corrections field about interventions that lead to positive behavior change and reduce recidivism, ultimately improving outcomes for parolees, their families, and the communities to which they return.

In recognition of the Department of Justice designating the week of April 24-30, 2016 as National Reentry Week, NCJRS presents this compilation of topical publications and resources.

To learn more, select a topic from the section at the right under the heading "Reentry."

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