Conservatives Latch onto Prison Reform

march 13th

The results are in, the ride over. The only thing that liberals and conservatives appear to agree on is prison reform. It’s hard to argue the issue when everyone has adopted one side of the argument. As commented on in this website many a time, everyone is for prison reform these days, with hardly a squeak from prison guard unions or District Attorneys’ offices. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times, “Conservatives latch onto prison reform” describes the depth of the adoption of criminal justice reform by conservative leaders and advocacy groups.

What that means to those who have fought for reform for a very long time, is that the stars are aligned in the heavens, and it’s time to push hard for real prison reform. That means, not only returning prisoners to their communities with alternative community-based sentences, but keeping offenders out of prison in the first place, with Pre-Entry Courts that provide an alternative to prison. Reentry courts, for returning high risk offenders, will clearly  be a part of that reform package.

Yes, it’s time to demand reform, but it must be effective reform. If we mess this up, we could be waiting a very long time before we have another oppotunity. Everyone seems to favor alternatives to prison, but little is said of what alternatives we speak, their efficacy, or cost-effectiveness. Our greatest fear shouldn’t be that we will send prisoners home to poorly funded prison alternatives and find they don’t work. One thing worse that underfunding prison alternatives, is building a criminal justice system on the rotting structure of the exisiting one. Clearly reform needs to be built from the ground up, rather than funding existing programs that have never proven their worth, or worse, been found to be counter-productive. Reform has to be built on sound scientific evidence, based on decades of unassailable research, and memorialized in such publications as the Center for Effective Public Policy’s “Implementing Evidence-Based Practices” (see Cont: Evidence Based Practices Point the Way).

President’s budget adds Reentry Court: Part I

Feb. 21st

Though many disputed the idea that federal funding for Reentry Court would survive the President’s initial  2012 budget, there it is; $5 million  for Reentry Courtsin the Department of Justice’s “Second Chance Act”. Though, in the scheme of things, not a lot of money ( and half of the $10 million allocated last year), it will continue funding of existing Reentry Court programs, and allow the expansion of Reentry Courts in exciting new ways. Most importantly, it is a statement that the Administration has not given up on Reentry courts as a model for prisoners returning to their communities.

It should be noted that there are literally dozens of states that are flailing around looking for some strategy that will allow substantial reductions in their prison populations. Reentry Courts, working with other important institutional and community partners, provides the focus necessary to integrate offenders back into the community while controlling their  criminal conduct. However, its important to note that reentry is a statewide problem, and cannot be addressed by local communities without the leadership, resources and committment of state political, judicial, and criminal justice officials. Any new federal Reentry Grant Program needs to be aimed at state government, rather than individual localities.

While it’s true that the pilot programs that are underway in a  dozen states have not been around long enough to  prove their effectiveness, drug courts have proven the effectiveness of the model in working with high-risk offenders (making up the great majority of those returning from prison). Where Reentry and other Problem-Solving Courts have missed their mark, is that they have not embraced evidence-based practices that have been  developed through nation-wide meta-analysis based research.

As a Reentry Court judge,  I am constantly reminded of the advances made in our knowledge, capabilities, and technology over the past ten years. It literally puts us on the brink of extraordinary change in the criminal justice system. All it takes is the willingness to break from the conventional, and the committment to apply what we know works (based on state of the art research) to our reentry populations. It can be done and the ride will be exhilarating.

[More on those advances next week]

Veteran’s Reentry Court Proposed at NADCP Meeting

At the National Association of Drug court Professionals (NADCP) Board Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, there was a good deal of discussion regarding the future of Veteran’s Court. One informal suggestion made was that a Veteran’s Court that focused on returning offenders from prison would be an appropriate expansion of the Veteran’s court concept. There are as many as 80 Veteran’s courts across the country and those that I am aware of, work with offenders are relatively recently separated from the military, who are new to the criminal justice system, with new offenses that are often dealt with through a diversionary court.

With the continued success and popularity of the Veteran’s Court, it would seem most appropriate to consider working with those who have had long histories in the criminal justice system, many of them veterans of the Vietnam era. Those with prison terms who are returning to the community or are to be released into the society clearly deserve the same degree of appreciation and consideration as more recent veterans receive in Veteran’s Courts

I have seen various statistics on the number of veterans in prison, the most widely quoted suggests that 10% of those in prison nationally are veterans (though I can not vouch for that). I have seen reliable statistics showing that there are over 2 million veterans living in California alone. For example, I would hope that California jurisdictions who are in the process of realignment, take a look at how those veterans imprisoned and released on parole in their jurisdiction are faring and investigate how we can best serve this deserving population as they return to their communities. A Veteran’s Reentry Court may be part of the answer.

Reentry Courts beckon as Cal Prisoners return?

As California, and states across the nation, contemplate the return of non-serious offenders to local counties, it may be time to seriously consider the Community-Based alternative,  Reentry Court.

Newly re-elected Governor Jerry Brown has announced his intention of returning state prisoners to county jails. According to an article in the San Jose Mercury, “Under Brown’s plan, the state would stop housing 37,000 adult convicts each year who are short-timers, low-level offenders and parole violators. Those groups instead would be held in county jails at a cost some experts say could be half the current burden…This is just an incredibly massive shift for a state system that was sending everybody and their brother to prison,” said Joan Petersilia, a Stanford University criminal justice expert. Petersilia, who has worked with two gubernatorial administrations on the change, described it as “the most significant in California history.”

This news shouldn’t come as a surprise as similar plans have been put forward in the past. But this time, it appears that the governor’s plan has a great deal going for it. The extraordinary cost of keeping non-violent offenders in state prison, an astounding budget deficit pegged at $27 Billion, and the court case before the U.S. Supreme Court, that may force California to remove up to 40,000 prisoners from its over-crowded prisons.The question for many, is whether the state will provide the funds to counties to provide the necessary treatment and other services required to successfully reintegrate offenders into their communities.

Reentry Courts are seemingly new,and not on everyone’s mind, but they should be. The six California Counties participating in California’s Parole Reentry Court  Pilot Project, having recently begun operations, are showing unusual promise. Within the next six months, we should have a very good idea as to the efficacy of the reentry court model in handling those returning from prison. It’s time to pay attention to the reentry court, based on a drug court model, that has proven itself to be the only effective community-based program for high-risk offenders.

Obama Speaks Out On Need For Second Chance

A recent phone converesation between President Obama and Eagles Football Team  owner, Jeffrey Lurie, will hopefully focus attention on the need to fund the “Second Chance Act” and “reentry courts ” as a part of that legislation. According to Eagles Football Team  owner, Jeffrey Lurie, President Obama made a point of thanking Lurie for giving quarterback Michael Vick a  second chance after his conviction and imprisonment for a year and a half for running a dog fighting ring.

Obama’a statement in support of giving returning prisoners a second chance is symbolically important as we go into the new federal budget cycle. At this time, we have reason to believe that the Congress has only preliminarily funded the “Second Chance Act” for $50 million as opposed to the $100 million funded last year. There is also the potential that “reentry courts” will no be funded at the $10 million level they were last year, if  at all.

This was the gist of Obama’s statement, according to Lurie,  “’So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance. He was … passionate about it. He said it’s never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail. And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.”

There’s reason to believe that existing reentry courts are having an even greater impact on returing offendeers that drug courts have had on drug offenders. The research supports the supposition that high risk offenders (which include most offenders returning from prison) do far better in highly structured court programs such as reentry courts than those who are not high risk. It’s critical that those with access to the Congress and the Administration make a strong pitch to fund “reentry courts” in the next funding cycle, and at the same level as last year.

Dr.Marlowe speaks out for Reentry Courts

Dr. Doug Marlowe, speaking in Boston this month on the latest research on reentry programs, concluded that  excluding reentry court,  most every state-of-the-art reentry modality had shown little impact on recidivism.

Dr.Doug Marlowe, Chief of Science, Policy, and Law at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), made his comments at a presentation for a Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) sponsored Focus Group on Reentry Courts,  held on June 1, 2010.

While the presentation only dealt  peripherally with reentry courts, its  implications to the field were significant.  Dr.Marlowe’s message was that present coercive and non-coercive reentry efforts don’t work. Even when we use the most sophisticated programs and state-of-the-art technology,  they have not shown themselves to be appreciably better than no program at all.

Presented through a  logical progression of easily followed power point slides (attached below), Dr. Marlowe examined the failures of a number of reentry programs, culminating in the recent SVORI (Serious & Violent Offender Reentry Initiative) meta-analysis. Following the trail of $100 million and 2,391 participants over a 3 year period, the SVORI evaluation concluded that even the best non-court based programs showed higher re-incarceration rates than the control group (though rearrest rates were somewhat lower).

Dr. Marlowe’s conclusion (among others) was that returning offenders were not likely to engage in the highly structured and intensive programs  required for successful reentry, without graduated sanctions and incentives, the mark of the reentry court. While the jury may be out as to the ultimate success of the reentry court, we have reason to believe they will be highly successful with the high risk offenders returning  from our jails and prisons ( as the drug court model they emulate, has been extraordinarily effective when dealing with the high risk offender in the community).

[See  “Reentry of Drug Offenders”; Dr.Douglas Marlowe, J.D., PH.D ]

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.

“Second Chance” Reentry Court RFP: A New Day

Note: Deadline for applications; June 3, 2010

This is the first of several articles  on the “Second Chance Act” Reentry Court Solicitation; in this analysis,  I will review the RFP from a collaborative and reintegration perspective.

We’ve been waiting for a Reentry Court “Request For Proposal” (RFP) for a long time. For me, the wait began in 1999, when I collaborated (with West Huddleston, now CEO of NADCP)  on the field’s first focus group and publication, “Reentry Drug  Courts”. The “Second Chance Act”  (Sec. 111), offers up to $500 thousand per applicant and a total invesment of $10 million for the year 2010, the first large scale funding for Reentry Courts  ( though there was limited funding for the Reentry Court Initiative).

That the field has grown little over the past decade is probably due in part to the lack of federal resources, guidance, and interest. While Drug Courts grew from an initial $6 million appropriation in 1996 to over $150 million in 2010, there has been little in the way of federal assistance for “Reentry Courts”, until the Obama Administration, the Holder DOJ, and the return of  Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson as head of OJP (as she was during the Clinton Administration).

All this is to say, that it’s a new day, and that people  are starting to take notice of the potential of Reentry Courts.  Interestingly, it was Jeremy Travis (now, President of the John Jay School of Justice), who first proposed the concept, as NIJ Director during the Clinton Administration,  More recently, in his book, “But They All Came Came Back”, he wrote, “Reentry Courts offer numerous advantages over our current system of reentry supervision”  ….however, the most compelling reason for moving toward a universal system of reentry courts is these court’s ability to promote reintegration.”

The need for a higher level of collaboration and reintegration on state and local levels is clearly reflected in the solicitation’s very  first paragraph. “BJA will only consider applications that demonstrate that the proposed reentry court will be administered by corrections agencies and an entity with judical authority, such as a state or local court, or probation and parole”.  The RFP goes on to state  that applications  ” are strongly urged to submit a Letter of Support from the State Chief Justice demonstrating that the proposal has been coordinated with, and is supported by, the state’s highest state court”.  This critical recognition  of state leadership, in both corrections and the courts, pushes both  state and local jurisdictions to work together in developing their reentry court model.

Drug Courts (although they should) often do not engage  the wider community. Under this solicitation, Reentry Court proposals that can “demonstrate a high degree of collaboration among a variety of public, private, and faith based organizations” will be given priority.  The RFP also gives priority to proposals that “include coordination with families of offenders”. I believe these priorities once again push the applicants to develop effective working relationships with the entire reentry community , including the offenders’ families, and their advocates.

This solicitation moves applicants toward a new ” collaborative reintegration-based model”, with collaboration mandated on state and local levels, both corrections and courts required to work closely together, and  the entire community encouraged to be an integral part of the reentry court process. More to the point, the reentry court process needs to find its place within and become  an integral part of community-wide reinintegration efforts. (For more information on the importance  of  community based reentry under the “Second Chance Act”, visit the National Reentry Resource Center).

Inquiries about this “Request For Proposal” should be directed to Dr. Gary Dennis, Senior Policy Advisor For Corrections, at (202) 305-9059 or [email protected].

Texas Slows The Revolving Door To Prison

From the Pew Center for the States’ Public Safety Performance Project publication (see article above),” Prison Count 2010: State Population Declines for the First Time in 38 Years” (p.3):

 Texas faced a projected prison population increase of up to 17,000 inmates in just five years.  Rather than spend nearly $2 billion on new prison construction and operations to accommodate this growth, policy makers reinvested a fraction of this amount—$241 million—in a network of residential and community-based treatment and diversion programs. This strategy has greatly expanded sentencing options for new offenses and sanctioning options for probation violators. Texas also increased its parole grant rate and shortened probation terms. As a result, this strong law-and-order state not only prevented the large projected population increase but reduced its prison population over the three years since the reforms were passed. (Note: one of a panoply of prison alternatives, Texas’ thriving reentry court system diverts offenders from prison into county based SAFPF Reentry Courts)

Prison Numbers Drop Even As Parolees Rotate Through

The Pew Center for the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, had good news in March, with the release of their latest publication,” Prison Count 2010: State Population Declines for the First Time in 38 Years“. Not only  are prison populations down .4% from 2008, but prison admissions for new offenses are down for the third year in a row. Of course when one puts this news in perspective, the realities are somewhat less  stellar. Prison populations are up over 700% since 1972, while federal prison populations continued to grow, doubling since 1995.

So what does this data really mean. Though the nation’s crime rate has been declining steadily since the early 1990’s, 2009 is the first year that the prison population has actually dropped. One might wonder why it took so long for prison populations to reflect that drop in crime. In fact, during the 1990’s, admissions to prison for new crimes grew by less than one percent a year. But parole vilolations as a proportion of all prison admissions more than doubled during that same period. That may reflect the fact that probation and parole have become very popular in recent years; there are currently more than five million offenders on probation or parole, reflecting an increase of 59% since 1990.

In one sense we should be pleased with the great appeal of probation and parole, obvious alternatives to prison. But the fact is, that they are not particularly successful alternatives. While the numbers released from prison grew for the seventh year in a row in 2009, admissions for violations of probation and parole increased for the fifth year in a row. As last year’s Pew Study pointed out, over 60% of prisoners return to prison within three years of release. It would appear that the stabilization of prison populations depends mostly on a new reluctance to sentence those with new offenses to state prison, while the recycling of parolees into prison continues to be  immensely popular. So while we should be pleased to see prison populations stabilize and even drop (although 23 states still showed an increase in prison populations), we should direct our attention to the revolving door that rotates prisoners in and out of prison with great regularity. More attention needs to be paid to evidence-based prison alternatives that are working in our communities (like the Texas system of  prison alternatives (see above), which includes SAFPF Reentry Court Programs).

Harlem’s Administrative Parole Reentry Court

The Harlem Parole Reentry Court, sits in one of the oldest court buildings in Manhattan, though it is by no means a traditional court.  The renovated courthouse is home to the “Harlem Community Justice Center”,   a multi-jurisdictional community court project, as well as the Harlem Parole Reentry Court. The Reentry Court is presided over by Parole Administrative Law Judge Grace Bernstein, and staffed by co-located parole officers , as well as Justice Center case managers.

Prospective parolees are pre-identified while awaiting release from custody at one of two pre-release reentry facilities in New York City. The majority of parolees in the program are residents of Harlem, a historic but high poverty community. Recent research conducted by the Upper Manhattan Reentry Task Force, also a project of the Justice Center, found that half of all parolees released to Manhattan returned to Upper Manhattan, including Harlem, even though the area is home to just 36% of the county’s population.  Participants are assigned to the Reentry Court for frequent (often weekly) court hearings, and are immediately engaged in treatment, rehabilitation, and job related services. The Reentry Court team consists primarily of the judge, two parole officer, three case managers, and service providers. The Court is a non-adversarial forum so counsel is not present. The program provides an extraordinary courtroom session, where the Judge, parolee and staff  “drill down” on each case to learn what is going right, discuss challenges and where more support or services might be needed. The Court uses sanctions and incentives to help motivate participants, and has a wide variety of programs and services available within the building and community to increase opportunities for success. The program typically runs the first six months of parole, culminating in a graduation ceremony (recent keynote speakers included the legendary Harry Belafonte and recently elected Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr.). Successful completers have their cases transferred to a regular parole office but may continue to engage services at the Justice Center. Those who are terminated from the Reentry Court program, appear off site, at an adversarial “parole revocation hearing”, represented by counsel.

The Harlem Parole Reentry Court has been successful at reducing new convictions for parolees, as a recently released evaluation by the Center for Court Innovation shows. However, the news is mixed. The evaluation also points out that Reentry Court participants received more technical violations (typically failures to follow the directions of judge and parole officer; to drug test, attend programs, or maintain contacts) than the comparison group. Along with a number of other exemplary programs, Harlem’s Reentry Court’s smaller caseloads and improved collaboration and communication between parole staff and treatment staff make it harder for parolees’ mistakes to go unnoticed. As Court Administrator Chris Watler explained to me, the Harlem Reentry Court is much better than regular parole at catching the parolee in program violations that can lead to “parole revocations”. To address the problem, the Reentry Court is using a recently awarded Second Chance Act grant to develop an evidence-based risk assessment tool (COMPAS) and graduated response protocol.

Contact: [email protected]

OJJDP Juvenile Reentry Mentoring Grants

Deadline: April 27,2010

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention(OJJDP) has just announced a new grant under the “Second Chance Act” for applicants who mentor juvenile offenders returning from custody to the community.  A grantee may be awarded up to $625,000 for a period of up to three years.  As best described in the RFP:

“The grants will be used to mentor juvenile offenders during confinement, through transition back to the community, and post-release; to provide transitional services to assist them in their reintegration into the community; and to support training in offender and victims issues. Targeted youth must be younger than 18 years old.”


Update: Mansfield adds Reentry/Drug Court

Adding to its tapestry of problem-solving courts, Richland County has received  a forty-two thousand dollar state grant to work with drug offenders who were terminated from drug court and sent to prison, to return to a reentry/drug court upon release into the community.  The funding will allow sixty returning offenders to engage the regular drug court as a reentry court (though there is a reentry court in place in the county [see: Richland County: A Reentry Court Showcase].

Dave Leitenberger, Program Coordinator and head of Richland  County Probation, believes that the drug court is the best place for returning drug offenders to receive treatment, monitoring, and rehabilitation services. Mr.Leitenberger also informed me in a telephone interview that  the existing reentry court has neither prosecutor nor defense counsel on  its reentry court team (though, upon termination from reentry court, parolees face parole authorities at “parole revocation hearings”, with defense counsel present).

[see: Leitenberger interview; article and video]

March 18: Deadline For Reentry Mentoring Grants

Community involvement in the Reentry Process is critical to the success of a reentry court. Our guest post, on the importance of Mentoring in the Reentry Process, was written by Pat Nolan , of the “Justice Fellowship”:

Prison Fellowship has found that having a mentor increases the beneficial impact of the other programs they participate in. Ex-offenders need healthy relationships even more than they need programs. A mentor is there to help them think through the myriad decisions that confront them—where to live, how to get a job, where to get medical care. Even mundane things like obtaining a driver’s license or a state ID. Mentors also hold offenders accountable for staying on the right path and help them get back on their feet when they falter.

It’s great news that the grants just issued by the BJA’s Office of Justice Programs are meant to be used to help build the capacity of local communities to match returning offenders with a mentor. There were 507 applications for the first round of grants, and we anticipate even greater demand for the $15 million available this year. The mentoring grants are the only source of funding currently available for community- and faith-based groups under the Second Chance Act; so, be prepared for stiff competition.

The announcement from BJA has excellent step-by-step instructions, an invaluable checklist and a comprehensive syllabus of articles about mentoring. My hat is off to Gary Dennis and his team at BJA. They have done a terrific job establishing this grant program in a way that is understandable to those of us who are not in government service. [For the full article see: Justice Fellowship]

California Leads with $10 Million in Reentry Court Funding

California has committed itself to  the largest prison-based reentry  demonstration project in the nation’s history. The RFP  released today through the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) provides $10 million in Federal stimulus funds for the Parolee Reentry Court Program to be administered by the California Administrative Office of the Courts.

The Parole Reentry Court Program, will provide between $1 and 1.5 million for two and one half years for up to seven prison-based reentry courts.  The demonstration grants will be open to jurisdictions that have well defined and implemented drug and mental health courts. Priority will be given to jurisdictions serving large numbers of  parolees and those with higher risks of recidivating.

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 the Corrections Agency will decide who is elligible for the program,  once a prisoner is assigned to a Parolee Reentry Court, the reentry court judge and team ( with the assistance of a team based parole officer) will have final say  until termination from the program.

Of Note: the program requires no matching funds from the court or local jurisdicition and retired judges may be contracted to preside over the reentry court.

Applications must be filed by March 1st. (For more information, see: Parolee Reentry Court Program)

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