CA Courts looking to BJA Reentry Court Funding

EXTRA/EXTRA

The Bureau of Justice Programs is moving forward with plans to provide grants of $500,000 each, for up to three years to Reentry Courts, under 2011 “Second Chance Act” funding. In California and elsewhere, where states are moving swiftly towards a county-based parole reentry and/or revocation system, local jurisdictions should seriously look at the potential for three year funding of their reentry/revocation court efforts.

Please keep in mind that the Reentry Court Grant Application must be filed by June 30th.

California Courts gird for new parole role

Extra/ May 22nd

According to reliable sources, California Courts are expected to take over a substantial part of parole revocation responsibities come July 1,2011. It appears that Governor Brown is going to proceed with the portion of legislation he signed last month (AB109) that gives counties (and presumably court systems) responsibility to deal with offenders who violate their parole. What is not known is how much responsibility will be delegated and how much discretion courts will have in fullfilling those responsibilities. What is known is that Governor Brown has arranged for the County Courts to receive a total of $40 million to set up structures to handle  parole revocations.

Those in California, with reentry responsibilities may be obligated to work with the county courts in dealing both with new less serious felony offenders and those who violate their probation and/or parole. It is an open question whether the six county California pilot parole reentry courts will be used as a state wide models for dealing with high-risk offenders. Six-month data on the pilot parole reentry courts is expected in June and will likely have an impact as to whether intensive supervision and rehabilitation, now provided in the Pilot projects, will be favored by the state, its agencies, or the Administrative Office of the Courts.

While it is unclear what the final perameters of the courts parole responsibilities will be, it would be prudent for California Courts and county agencies to begin planning for their new responsibilities. Though this is a difficult time to consider major reform, County courts may have discretion to structure a sentencing system that tracks offenders from sentence through incarceration (assuming the offender is kept local) into probation and finally reintegration into the community. Rather than come up with a piecemeal approach, now is the time to think systemically, in creating a multi-track structure to deal with less serious felony offenders who are sentenced for up to 3 years  (but kept local) to high risk parolees who may be supervised by the courts, both out of prison and after a parole revocation. [Note: Consider the extraordinary opportunity  that BJA Second Chance funding, ( $500,000 grants potentially for 3 years) could mean to your reentry/revocation court]

The following suggestions are provided:  Options for a California Reentry Court System

A Woman’s Reentry Court

“A Woman’s Journey Home: Challenges for Female Offenders and Their Children”, written in 2002, is an excellent publication, from the Urban Institute (published by the Dept of HHS), devoted to the challenges facing women returning from prison. Written by Stephanie S. Covington, PhD, LCSW, then Co-director of the Center for Gender & Justice, this study focuses on women’s issues and the inherent bias that effects women in prison and when returned to the community.

It should be noted that a number of Drug Courts and other Problem-Solving Courts have developed special tracks, both in the courtroom and treatment and rehabilitation programs in the community, that recognize the special needs and  interests of women. The first such program that I became aware of was established in 1993, by Judge William Schma,  a drug court pioneer, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Judge Schma, was a powerful advocate for the separation of women from men in Drug Court. He argued that women become invisible in the presence of male participants, and the ability of both sexes to focus on their rehabilitation was compromised. I believe that he is and was correct on both counts.

In the field of Reentry Courts, one program stands out in this regard. The Second Chance Women’s Re-entry Court program in Los Angeles, established by Judge Michael Tynan, is an exceptonal program serving over 200 women in Los Angeles County.

Indiana Chief Justice Endorses Reentry Courts

In a Decemebr 15th interview (see complete article; Inc, Now ),Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard endorsed Allen County’s Reentry Court as a model, “not only for the state, but also for courts around the country” (see article on Allen County Reentry Court). According to policy changes recommended by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Pew Center, Indiana could save taxpayers more than $1 billion by 2017 by looking to Reentry Court and other  corrections reforms. The review, endorsed today by  Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, is receiving support in the General Assembly from both sides of the aisle. The review, asked for by all three branches of state government about a year ago, something Chief Justice Shepard referred to as a first, examined Indiana’s public safety, criminal code and sentencing guidelines. Indiana has been a national leader in the development of Reentry Court Systems and state-wide protocols (see article on Indiana’s Rules)

Cal Parole Reentry Courts Start-Up

Dec. 14th

The California Parole Reentry Court Project is an exciting California pilot program offering court –based rehabilitation, monitoring, and reintegration services to parole violators. It is a state wide statutory pilot project, set up in six counties, working with parole violators, with histories of substance abuse and/or mental illness, who are at high risk of reoffending.

In 2009, the legislature passed, and the governor signed Senate Bill 18, Sec.49 granting Superior Court Judges jurisdiction over parole violators for the first time. (Penal Code 3015).

The actual structure of the six pilot projects, has been the subject of extensive negotiations by the California Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) over the past six months. Those negotiations resulted in an MOU between those state agencies on December 1, 2010. Even so, counties  have major discretion to develop their own individual programs. For example,  parole officers may refer parole violators to the program, but the Parole Reentry Court Judge may reject them if they do not meet eligibility criteria set  by that county.

The six county projects  funded through a Federal Recovery grant administered by the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) receive approximately $10 million for for the project, slated to end September 30, 2012.

Missouri provides sentencing costs

Sept. 20

Missouri has taken an important step forward, by providing its judges with the cost of imprisonment when sentencing felony offenders. According to an article in the New York Times, “Legal experts say no other state systematically provides such information to judges, a practice put into effect here last month by the state’s sentencing advisory commission, an appointed board that offers guidance on criminal sentencing.”

Missouri has consistently been a leader in prison reform with such alternatives to prison as “split sentencing” and reentry courts.  This year, in his annual address, the chief justice of Missouri’s Supreme Court, William Ray Price Jr., stated “Perhaps the biggest waste of resources in all of state government is the over-incarceration of nonviolent offenders and our mishandling of drug and alcohol offenders”. Missouri is only one of many states whose courts are now taking a hard look at the cost of sending non-violent offenders to prison, rather than keeping them in more cost-effective community based prison alternatives (such as pre-entry courts).

Wyoming develops Reentry Court MOU

Sept 12

Pat Anderson is the Executive Director of the Wyoming Board of Parole. These days he sometimes resembles a traveling salesman, criss-crossing the mountains and valleys of Wyoming selling the merits of Reentry Courts. I had a chance to talk to him at the Wyoming State Drug Court Association Conference last week, where we co-presented on reentry courts.

Pat believes that prisoners coming home from prison can be best supervised, and reintegrated into their communities through the twenty-one established reentry courts in the state. As Wyoming has limited their drug courts to relativeley minor offenses in the past, its embrace of reentry courts may shift its focus to the high risk offenders where the drug/reentry court will have the greatest impact..

Pat has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) with Laramie (Cheyenne), Campbell (Gillette), and Sublette (Pinedalle) Counties and is in negotiations with Fremont and Sheridan Counties. (See a copy of the Wyoming MOU).

Indiana Leads With Reentry Court Rules

State involvement and leadership in the reentry court field appears to be a requisite for successful programs. No state has been more active in establishing a state presence in the reentry court field than Indiana, where they have established court perameters through ”Reentry Court Rules“.

As described in the July 12th issue of the Indiana Court Times, “in 2006, the General Assembly enacted legislation authorizing local courts to establish reentry courts (IC 33-23-14). The Indiana Judicial Conference Board of Directors adopted reentry court rules in 2008, and IJC began certifying reentry courts in 2009. There are currently six certified reentry courts in Indiana. The Judicial Conference established the Problem-Solving Courts Committee in 2006 to support the innovation of judges at the local level. The committee’s mission is: “To encourage the broad integration of the problem-solving philosophy into the administration of justice to improve court processes and outcomes while preserving the rule of law and to encourage judges to take a proactive role, using a non-adversarial, coordinated strategy to problem-solving while creating an environment where participants are encouraged to take responsibility for change.” Judge John Surbeck of Allen Superior Court [Indiana's first Reentry Court Judge] serves as chair of the fifteen member committee.”

Indiana sets out definitive rules for certification of Indiana’s Reentry courts. For those reentry courts that are not certified, the state provides

“A reentry court that is not certified by the Indiana Judicial Center, and an applicant whose plan of operation does not comply with requirements for certification under these rules is not entitled to receive a favorable review or recommendation from the Indiana Judicial Center on any application for funding of services from state, federal, or private funding sources.” (Sec.13)

Clearly Indiana is creating financial incentives for courts to conform to state standards and become certified. It’s the onlycase I know  of a state judiciary attempting to dictate the structure and and procedures used in reentry court. To my way of thinking, it is an important option available to states, committed to establishing effective state-wide reentry court programs.

For additional information about reentry courts, please contact Mary Kay Hudson, Problem-Solving Court Administrator, Indiana Judicial Center,mkhudson@courts.state.in.us.

$9.5 Million awarded to Cal “Parole Reentry Courts”

Seven grants from the California Emergency  Management Agency (Cal EMA) were recently awarded to Alameda, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties. In all, $9.5 million in Federal stimulus funds will be distributed to Parolee Reentry Court pilots to be coordinated by the California Administrative Office of the Courts. In doing so, California has committed itself to  the largest court based prison reentry  demonstration project in the nation’s history.

The Parole Reentry Court Program, will provide funding to each county for up to two and one half years  All the awardees have well defined and implemented drug and/or mental health courts. Priority was given to jurisdictions serving large numbers of  parolees and those with higher risks of recidivating. All pilot reentry courts will be expected  to use risk/needs assessments in their implementation and adopt research tested evidence based practices throughout their programs.

For California, with its overwhelming prison overcrowding and reentry problems, this project marks a remarkable change from business as usual. For the first time, ex-prisoners  will be under the jurisdiction of the California Courts. While a parole officer will initially will decide who is referred for the program,  once a prisoner is accepted by the Reentry Court judge, that judge with assistance of the reentry court team ( including a parole officer) will have final say until termination from the program.

NIC: An Important Reentry Court Resource

The dilemma for the Reentry Court field is that there is a relative dearth of specific information and scientific literature on Reentry Courts. Some are so disheartened, that they are prepared to put off developing a Reentry Court till research based guidance is provided. I would suggest that it’s far better to make use of relevant research materials and evidence based practices available to the reentry court field now, than wait for specific reentry court publications that may arrive too late to be of use. This is especially true, as the “drug court” that reentry court is modeled after has already been intensely evaluated and shown to be the most effective modality, in dealing with the high-risk offenders, those offenders who are overwhelmingly  leaving our jails and prisons.

The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) has been an important resource for correctional reform information since 1977. Over the past decade, the NIC has dedicated itself to providing state of the art tools for jurisdictions interested in improving  ” offender reentry” from jails and prisons into their communities. While it’s publications and web-based tools are rarely reentry court specific, they  do provide important and relevant research based information that can be applied to your reentry court program. Importantly, the NIC has adopted an early intervention model, that focuses on the offender’s seamless reentry from the time of sentence (and by inference, the time of arraignment).

The NIC “ TPC Reentry Handbook (Transition from Prison to Community) was developed  [in 2008] as a resource for a broad range of stakeholders involved in improving transition and reentry practices (p.3)”. The National Institute of Corrections and project partner the Urban Institute developed its “Transition from Jail to Community” project (TJC) with a similar purpose, with its  TJC Implementation Toolkit coming on line just last month.  According to the NIC blurb, “This web-based learning resource guides local criminal justice agencies and community-based organizations through implementation of the TJC model, in whole or in part.”  It would appear these publications and web-based tools ought to be part of every reentry court’s library.

Problem-Solving Courts And The States

Reentry Courts have a unique position among Problem-Solving Courts in their relationship to state government. Reentry Courts are almost entirely creatures of the state (at least, those dealing with returnee’s from state prison, are largely under state jurisdiction) and rely on state judicial, legislative, and executive support for their existence.

What follows is the first in a series of articles that explore the critical relationship between Reentry Court and the State.

Fifteen years ago, few people who were aware of Drug Courts understood their extraordinary promise. Initially nearly everyone believed that Drug Courts were and would remain a purely local phenomenon, one fostered by local innovation and commitment alone, with little state or national impact. The success of the drug court, has resulted in heightened state interest in them, as well as their progeny, Problem-Solving Courts (special courts that use the drug court model to address other serious offender issues, ie., DUI, Domestic Violence, Mental Health, Veterans Courts, etc.). It is clear Problem-Solving Courts, like Drug Courts, can no longer be considered “individual programs”, isolated from the rest of the state criminal justice system. Indeed, Drug Courts and Problem-Solving Courts have gone “mainstream” as the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators unanimously endorsed them in years 2000, 2004, and 2009

Initially however, state governments had been relatively uninvolved in the development of drug court programs. Many state agencies, as well as the organizations that represented them on the national level, expressed indifference that at times bordered on opposition to the development of the Problem-Solving Court model. State Judicial Leaders were typically cool to the Problem-Solving Courts concept. The drug court model was new, thought expensive and untested by reliable evaluations. In 1994, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), representing the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, rejected the notion of the drug court as a “special” court.

Soon after, National and State Judicial leadership reversed course, with NCSC and the nation’s judicial leadership providing strong support and leadership on behalf of the problem-solving court model, (see: CCJ/COSCA Resolution). There were many reasons for their  pro-active role on behalf of Problem-Solving Courts. Without state judicial leadership’s guidance, State Judicial Administrators feared that courts would develop inefective programs, while consuming scarce court resources.  There were concerns that programs developed by one judge would be undone by the next.  They worried about judges becoming media “stars” in their communities, and neglecting their other judicial duties. They legitimately wondered how these programs could survive without a level of standardization and institutionalization of practices and procedures.

Similarly, State Departments of Alcohol and Drugs had been slow to support the drug court concept.  Funding in particular had been a significant issue.  Initially, reluctance seemed be based on a generally held belief among treatment agencies that the criminal justice system, with its greater resources should be responsible for funding drug treatment through the criminal courts.  There was also the concern that the criminal justice system would dominate any treatment program they participated in.  They worried that the courts would overwhelm treatment agencies with clients without corresponding new resources.  They were concerned that individual courts would provide limited and inadequate assessments and treatment to participants.  They feared that the criminal justice system would ignore the scientific research on effective treatment and demand prison for those who didn’t conform to court mandates. Those fears have receded with the development of effective court/treatment partnerships and the emergence of drug court judges and other practitioners as effective advocates for the expansion of treatment resources.

Governors and Legislatures also felt the need to react to this new phenomenon. They were certainly aware of the extraordinary media coverage and political support from across the political spectrum.  But, like everyone else in state government, they were concerned that Problem-Solving Courts would consume disproportionate state funding needed for other purposes in times of limited funds. They questioned whether Problem-Solving Courts were truly effective and cost-efficient.

Of course, state policy makers were not the only ones who saw the need for state involvement. While deeply ambivalent about the extension of state power and influence over what were grass-roots community-based courts,  Problem-Solving Court judges and other practitioners  welcomed state financial support. Ultimately,  judges looked to state leaders to help them legitimize their programs and convince their colleagues and county administrators of the importance of their work.  Treatment providers looked to the state for resources and direction.  Probation and parole officers requested resources to maintain reasonable caseloads.  And defense attorneys and prosecutors sought political support and affirmation for their non-punitive approach and non-traditional roles.  For the most part, all agreed that a statewide presence was needed.  The form that involvement was to take was a more difficult issue to determine.

The limitations of a strictly local Problem-Solving Court program are now clear. Even with the commitment and assistance of the federal government, the impact of Problem-Solving Courts, in both quality and quantity of services and numbers of participants reached would be severely limited without strong state financial and political support. A statewide Problem-Solving Court policy is now generally accepted as necessary in order to institutionalize court policies and procedures, stabilize  program structures, standardize  treatment requirements, and expand eligibility  to those who most need assistance, the high risk offender.

Ohio Announces Increase In Reentry Courts

Ohio has announced its “Ohio Reentry Coalition’s Five Year Strategic Plan”. As part of that plan, reentry courts are to increase from the present six courts to a total of  eleven by 2014 with a commensurate increase in the number of reentry participants. Ohio is among a small group of states whose polcy makers have led the way in increasing their state’s focus on reentry courts.

Spotlight on Missouri

Missouri is one the few truely innovative states in the reentry court field, with both prison and jail based reentry courts (also called reintegration courts). According to Missouri Director of Probation Services, Scott Johnson,  a single state agency that handles both probation and parole functions makes political and resource decisions less problematic. [According to Scott, over half the states have adopted a combined probation/parole state agency structure in recent years; a critical structure for your consideration]

Two programs provide split sentencing for prisoners. The first provides a four month prison term for drug abusers, requiring them to engage in a serious treatment program in prison before they are released to reentry courts and probation supervision. The second split sentence program allows all elligible offenders with a 5 years or greater sentence to be placed in a two year prison treatment program, to be released to reentry courts after that period.

The three formal pilot programs are in Kansas City, Columbia, and St.Charles. Other counties have begun to pilot reentry courts  on a less formal basis..

St. Charles County has an innovative program targeting all offenders eligible for probation, who would otherwise be sent to state prison. It is funded by the Department of Probation and Parole, and uses participant baseline data to confirm required reductions in prison sentences .  The program itself sentences offenders to treatment in jail, with in-custody offenders supervised by the drug/reentry court judge and personnel. Participants are typically released from custody within several weeks of placement and given the opportunity to be part of the out-of-custody program under the same court’s monitoring.

Missouri contact: Rick Morrisey; rick.morrisey@courts.mo.gov