This is one of many articles I’ve written on the 2011 “Second Chance Act” Reentry Court RFP, in an attempt to stir interest in a major funding opportunity involving community alternatives to prison. In this analysis, I will review the Reentry Court RFP from the perspective of a county -jail, probation-based reentry court applicant.
Typically, when one thinks of a reentry process, the focus is on state prisoners reentering society. While this is clearly a critical issue, the possibility of keeping the offenders in the local community , and using a substantial jail term as a last resort to prison has not always received the focus it deserves. Creating an effective county jail-based reentry court program offers the possibility of reducing the state prison population with its extraordinary costs, keeping offenders local, while increasing public safety within a seamless and comprehensive jail-based reentry court system.
Note: This solicitation is open to offenders returning from jails as well as prisons.
The pressure is on to reduce prison population in states like California. Governor Jerry Brown has committed his new administration to implementing a major sentencing realignment that will optimally send 30,000 state prisoners back to local communities and county court jurisdiction. The potential for dealing with offenders at an early stage of the criminal justice process (potentially at Arraignment), allowing for the seamless transitioning from jail to community, providing judicial oversight and incentives, using the same reentry court team throughout, and providing critical rehabilitation services early on, is an important alternative to prison based reentry court (see: County Jail Based Reentry Courts, a Policy Paper). An additional benefit, is that the local jurisdiction can submit an application and proceed with their planned reentry court, even in states that don’t support state prison-based reentry courts.
It’s worth repeating, that an obvious way to deal with exploding prison populations and prisoner reentry failures is to refrain from sentencing non-violent offenders to prison in the first place.