"Today when I think of reentry court, I am reminded that nearly every offender sentenced to time in custody will return to the community from whence they came. And thus, every sentencing court is in fact, a reentry court, creating a pathway for the offender’s reentry into society." -Jeff Tauber

RFP Target: State Criminal Justice Leaders

Note: Deadline for applications; June 3, 2010

This is the third of several articles  on the “Second Chance Act” Reentry Court Solicitation; in this analysis,  I will speak to the real audience for this RFP:  Your State’s  Criminal Justice Leadership

BJA’s “Reentry Court RFP, says it right up front, half-way down the title page, “Applications submitted by entities other than the highest state court are strongly urged to demonstrate that the proposal has been coordinated with, and is supported by, the state’s highest state court”.  Again on page 12, in describing  the RFP’s priorities for applicants, ” Demonstrate that the application has been consulted with, and is supported by, the state’s highest state court”.

I would submit  the RFP is communicating the obvious, a reentry court is not a viable institution without the full support and collaboration 0f the State Supreme Court and its executive arm, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). In reality, a reentry court  is not viable without the full support and collaboration of the entire state criminal justice and political leadership. That doesn’t mean that a local jurisdiction can’t apply for and be awarded a grant, but that a state parole/corrections based reentry court (as opposed to a county-based jail/probation reentry court; see: Pre-entry Courts), needs to partner with the state.

This isn’t so for any other problem-solving court. Drug, mental health,  DUI, and other problem-solving courts are often started by  local jurisdictions, sometimes without the knowledge of the state judicial or political leadership (although state collaboration and support is becoming more and more critical)

The analysis is simple: State’s are overwhemingly responsible for the control of offenders, post prison. To that end, state-wide jurisdiction is typically granted to state parole/probation agencies to oversee offenders returning to the community. In most state’s it’s called the state-wide Parole and/or Probation Agency. Traditonally, counties had little or no jurisdiciton once the offender was sentenced to state prison.

Times have changed. We’ve looked at the data and realized that a  state-wide correctional authority alone, may be too narrowly focused, and that a broader collaborative approach to the returning offender may be more successful and cost-effective. The reentry court is one such model that is being widely investigated as a new path for the returnee. But it can’t succeed without the State Supreme Court, Correctional Authority, Probation/Parole Agency, and the legislature’s collective planning, collaboration and funding. (see:  Ten Prison-Based Reentry Court Models).

This RFP and message is for those of you in your state government’s crimial justice leadership: It will take your good will and support, and yes, your initiative to make an acceptable application under this RFP, truely successful.

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