Executive Summary

The following summary reflects the major concepts contained in this document:

  • NADCP proposes a “National Reentry Court Initiative” that will reduce dependence on prison by expanding drug courts into community-based systems, that rehabilitate high-risk, drug-involved, non-violent felons, from their entry into jails and prisons through their post-release supervision.
  • Prison populations increased by 700% since 1970, with over 75% imprisoned for non-violent offenses. Today, prison does not work for the non-violent felon. Sending non-violent offenders to prison, to live among the most dangerous and violent offenders is a disastrous public policy.
  • Community is central to all our lives, thus keeping the offender local makes a substantial difference. Prison is a radical departure from what came before. Until approximately 200 years ago, community control had been the most effective and prevalent form of behavior control.
  • Drug Court and its progeny, Problem Solving Courts (PSC) are an attempt to replicate that community control. Drug Court and PSC are not radical, but research based models that provide the most effective control of offender behavior. Reentry/Drug Court (RDC) is a circular system reflecting the logical evolution of drug court beyond conventional pretrial program parameters.
  • RDC works with the offender from the time of arrest through completion of probation/parole. RDC focuses community-wide coordination efforts upon both jail offenders and prison returnees. High-risk drug-involved offenders (who make up 80% of state prisoners) do best in drug court. Drug court success can be extrapolated to high-risk drug-involved offenders in RDC systems.
  • Drug Court has the expertise, structure and process in place to involve large numbers of high-risk offenders. Drug Court is seriously underutilized, serving less than five percent of drug-involved offenders. RDC will expand drug court or “take it to scale”, by adding high-risk offenders.
  • Jail-based RDC allows communities to keep the non-violent offender in local facilities (rather than prison), The RDC team is involved from arraignment through the completion of probation. Substantial incentives, including reductions in jail and probation terms are major motivators.
  • Prison-based RDC has the potential to fix a prison reentry system that returns 50% of offenders to prison within 3 years of release.  RDC will maximize “reintegration” of the returnee into the community through organizational/agency collaboration and court-based supervision/monitoring.
  • Just because “reentry programs” are well resourced and well intentioned doesn’t guarantee success. RDC provide the motivation and accountability that make reentry programs work.
  • A number of states have created “split sentencing” jurisdiction that allows prison returnees to be supervised by the RDC both before and after a prison term. Such judge-driven RDCs, along with hybrid RDC (often parole centered where court have no jurisdiction) are promising innovations.
  • The criminal justice system is cautious, clinging to “conventional wisdom” and averse to change. Evidence-based practices (EBP), best exemplified by drug court and PSC, will need to employ innovative implementation strategies to successfully overcome CJS resistance.
  • Strong national leadership and innovative funding strategies are needed to reform reentry policy. “Structurally Accountable” programs, coordinated at the federal/state levels, subject to strong federal incentives, meeting federal performance based criteria, and structured to provide community-wide support, involvement, and coordination are critical to effective programs.

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