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 DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance is authorized under the “Second Chance Act” (Sec. 111), to offer 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 of 2000).
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).