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)
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 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).
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).
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,firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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 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.
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; email@example.com