|Effective Gang Reentry: A Priority for Criminal Justice|
|By National Gang Center Quarterly Newsletter - Summer 2012|
In response to the need for effective reentry practices, the United States Congress approved the Second Chance Act in 2008. The Second Chance Act supports policymakers, researchers, and practitioners in the development and evaluation of model reentry policies and programs aimed at successful offender reentry. In recognition of the importance of reentry, the Federal Reentry Council, made up of 18 federal departments and agencies and chaired by the Attorney General, was established.
Reentry services benefit from best practices implemented during the institutional/facility, structured transition, and community reintegration phases of the incarcerated individual’s experience. Reentry planning at each phase recognizes the individual’s need for supervision, safety, housing, education, employment, treatment, and social support.
Reentry services for gang members bring additional challenges. The gang member has support systems in the community that can meet his need for safety, to make money, and provide social support. The challenge for the criminal justice system is to provide positive interventions and alternatives to continued gang affiliation as a means of providing support to the gang member.
Gang members typically come from poor environments, both family and neighborhood. They may be returning to homes with family gang involvement in neighborhoods where violence is the rule rather than the exception. They may lack education or job skills. Gang members are often heavily tattooed, which, when added to their criminal history, makes finding employment and acceptance by the community difficult. Poor planning and decision-making skills are common among gang members, and positive role models are not readily available to most of them. They are returning to an environment that allows them to slip easily back into preexisting substance abuse and mental health issues without a safety net.
Gang reentry practices include gang level classification, ongoing intelligence gathering, and possibly renunciation programs at the institutional phase. At all phases, staff training in gang awareness and management is recommended. Continuous case management, substance abuse and mental health services, and cognitivebased training are recommended for all phases of reentry. Upon reintegration, safe alternative housing, mentoring relationships, and vocational and employment programs including tattoo removal are essential. Collaborative relationships between agencies providing supervision and services at the community level to share resources and information are important.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance funded the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) to develop a product outlining organizational and practice guidelines and resources for gang reentry at each phase of the process. The Guidelines for Gang Reentry are available in a DVD format and can be ordered from the APPA Web site by clicking here. The National Reentry Resource Center is another resource for reentry information and programs.
Reprinted from the National Gang Center Newsletter - Summer 2012
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