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National experts promote safe communities and successful prisoner reentry
By US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs
Published: 05/22/2012

Washington, DC—Senior officials from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor, members of Congress, experts in corrections, victims and survivors of crime, people who have been incarcerated, and leaders of state and local government agencies as well as administrators of not-for-profit organizations receiving federal funding through the Second Chance Act (Public Law 110-199), kicked off a conference focused on improving success rates for people released from prisons, jails, and juvenile correctional facilities. The three-day training and technical assistance event was convened by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, which administers the National Reentry Resource Center.

With support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice, this third annual national conference for Second Chance Act grantees helps front-line professionals learn from experts and peers.

Pennsylvania Congressman, Chaka Fattah, said, “It’s exciting to see 500 leaders in the reentry field assembled in one place. With bipartisan support from Capitol Hill and the terrific support from DOJ, DOL, and other cabinet agencies, state and local leaders have matched federal funding with local dollars to launch innovative programs that will assist people as they emerge from prison. These programs are crucial to ensuring that former inmates have all the necessary resources they need to adjust to living outside the confines of prison.”

Along with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis addressed conference participants. Introducing her, New York State Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, observed, “Ask a young man coming out of prison what he needs most to get his life back on track, and he almost invariably responds, ‘a job.’ We have to help people coming out of prison and jail get connected in the workforce if we want them to succeed.”

Conference sessions demonstrated just how far the reentry field has come in a short period of time. Brigid Adams, who works in Reentry Services at the Kentucky Department of Corrections, said, “Thanks to the training and technical assistance we’ve received, we now understand that science based tools can help us predict – far more accurately than our gut instincts – how likely a person is to commit another crime. Using those tools to inform who we serve and what supports and supervision we provide them makes a huge difference in what kind of results our program can get.”

One entire track of the event focused on the juvenile justice system. Ned Loughran, Executive Director of the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, explained, “Obviously, warehousing kids in custody until they are returned to the community is not an option. But we cannot presume that what works for adults reentering the community will work for young people, too. Reentry programs serving youth need to recognize that each child is unique, and that issues such as family, education, and mental health present particular challenges for kids who have been confined and are now returning home.”

The U.S. Department of Justice continues to make reentry—and collaboration among reentry partners—a high priority. One example of this partnership to be unveiled at this year’s conference is the “What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse,” which was funded by the BJA through the Second Chance Act.

This online resource offers easy access to credible research on the effectiveness of a wide array of reentry programs and practices. It provides a user-friendly, one-stop shop for practitioners seeking guidance on evidence-based reentry interventions. The What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse was developed for the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) by the CSG Justice Center and the Urban Institute (UI), in partnership with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Prisoner Reentry Institute (PRI).

Practitioners throughout the nation are commonly searching for what the research says “works” in reentry and where evidence does not exist to support the programs, policies, and practices being funded. Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, says of the effort: “The Clearinghouse will help to highlight effective programs for reducing recidivism while also pointing to some of the gaps in research that demand further evaluation.”

In addition to providing a first-hand introduction to innovations such as the What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse, the conference will help facilitate information exchanges that will help people make the most of the federal investment in their programs. Among the topics that will be addressed are using the latest science-based tools to properly assess an individual’s risk for committing future crimes, designing data-driven programs, and effectively allocating limited resources to provide support for people returning home to their communities from prisons and jails. Special attention will be paid to sharing strategies that have been shown to improve employment outcomes for those individuals as well as properly match them with the services and treatment they need in order to successfully stay crime free upon release.

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies—informed by available evidence—to increase public safety and strengthen communities. For more about the CSG Justice Center, see: JusticeCenter.csg.org

To learn more about the Reentry Research Clearinghouse, visit: NationalReentryResourceCenter.org/clearinghouse

For information about the Second Chance Act, see: NationalReentryResourceCenter.org/about/second-chance-act

For information about the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs visit: www.ojp.gov



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