Columbia Reentry Court:A Probation-Based Reentry Court

The Boone county reentry court model has a split sentence structure that relies upon probation, rather than parole, to provide services and monitoring. Those sent to prison, receive treatment during an initial four month prison term and are returned to the reentry court for continued treatment, rehabilitation and monitoring. Approimately 80 returnees are part of the progam at any time.

Judge Chris Carpenter attributes the program’s documented success to a level of accountabilty and structure that touches the participant even before they leave prison. A returning offender is interviewed by the reentry court coordinator before leaving prison, released from prison on Tuesdays only, transported for an extensive interview and assessments with  the coordinator on Wednesdays, and transported to court on Thursday for the offenders first reentry court hearing. During this period, the offender is in held at “Reality House”, a secure facility, and only released after court and upon the judge’s order.

 Though Judge Carpenter also presides over drug and mental health courts, she believes that the seriousness of the returnees criminal history and criminal attitude require that they be separated from other problem-solving court participants. The reentry court team is made up of  judge,  program coordinator, probation officers, case managers, job training counselors, and treatment specialists.  Of interest; even though this is a county probation-based program, prosecutor and defense counsel are not part of the reentry court, unless and until the participant is terminated from the program and a “probation revocation hearing” ordered (  see “Minimalist Reentry Court” ). Nor is this a voluntary program. Everyone sentenced under the split sentencing statute who returns to the community after four months (many who have been sentenced to substantial prison terms), enters reentry court, signs a contingency contract, and is a participant in the program. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Columbia reentry court, is that it is part of a seamless rehabilitation process, whose dimensions and consequences  are known to all, even before a plea is enterred into.

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]

2010 Budget Proposal Increases Reentry Court Funding

The Obama Administration’s funding proposal for law enforcement and correctional purposes is increasing substantially over 2oo9, opening up the potential for increased resources for reentry courts and other criminal justice reform programs. The budget proposal requests:

“$519 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants in FY 2011. The Byrne-JAG program, which received $518 million in FY 2010, awards grants to state, tribal and local governments to support a broad range of activities that are designed to prevent and control crime. This includes: law enforcement; prosecution, corrections, drug treatment and technology improvements. The Administration has proposed funding the COPS program at $690 million. This is an increase of nearly $300 million from the FY 2010 level of $392 million. Of that total, $600 million is set aside for law enforcement officer hiring. This would equate to roughly 2,900 officers.  In addition to these proposed funds, in December, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the “Jobs for Main Street Act” (H.R. 2847) that included $1.18 billion for COPS hiring programs. The Senate is expected to consider and act on this legislation in the near future.” (see complete article: International Association of Chief’s of Police)

It would be useful to follow this funding closely. Byrne- JAG Grant Funding is distributed largely through state governor’s Offices of Criminal Justice and also directly through grants to local jurisdictions.  Once the monopoly of law enforcement and corrections authorities, these funds have been opened up in recent years to support criminal justice and correctional reform, including, Drug Court and Alternatives to Prison. (For funding details, see: OJP/BJP website)

The $690 million budget request for COPS funding for 2010 (an increase of $300 million over last year), as well as the Billion Dollar plus under the “Main Street Act”, under consideration in the Congress, are reason enough to follow the money trail. Community policing resources, the original purpose of COPS is still very much alive as a priority, and provides the means for personnel and resources to monitor drug court participants in many communities (Richland County, Ohio, uses Community policing personnel to do home visits and monitor reentry court participants in the community)  .

Mansfield, Ohio: A Collaborative Model

Mansfield, Ohio, a small community of fifty thousand presents an extraordinary example of collaboration between county court and probation services, and state prison and parole agencies.  Almost all returning county prisoners, have been intentionally interned at one of the two in-county prisons and upon release from prison, monitored by the Richland Reentry Court. Judges’ Henson and Deweese operate the Reentry court in tandem, each holding court once a month for some 150 participants.  The Ohio “Judicial Release Program” as practiced in Mansfield, over the last ten years, is a hybrid of county and prison based reentry models that has proven its worth in a formal evaluation conducted by Professor Jeffrey Spellman, of Ashland University.

The reentry process actually begins at the time an individual is sentenced (sometimes as early as arraignment).  The court makes its sentencing decision based on risk/needs assessment tools. Whenever an offender is sent to prison under the “Judicial Release Program” for a period of six months or more, the offender can be recalled by the reentry court  for continued county-based supervision and treatment. When the offender is returned to the community depends on the court’s decision at a “Prison Reentry Hearing”, that  considers the prisoner’s conduct, as well as,  participation and success in prison rehabilitation programs, while being closely monitored by the Richland County Reentry Court Coordinator.  Once returned to the community, the reentry court’s treatment, rehabilitation and monitoring (facilitated by  parole, probation and community policing staff) work together with the returning offender.

The Reentry Court has a second facet, for offenders who are released under the state parole authority’s jurisdiction. These offenders typically are convicted of more serious offenses, but are also monitored and serviced by the reentry court. One of the most fascinating aspects of the court, is that the Reentry Court Judge sits alongside a Parole Commissioner  on the bench, (though each has final authority over a different segment of the reentry community).  It appears, that given the right environment (as in Mansfield), county and state reentry authorities can create innovative and successful  collaborative relationships. (Article on Richland Reentry Court)

For more information, contact: David Leitenberger, at [email protected]

Celebrating A Decade: How Reentry/Drug Court Got Here

Anyone at all aware of criminal justice issues, knows that 2010 will be the beginning of a seismic change in the criminal justice system. There is immense national concern about prison overcrowding, prisoner reentry into the community, and the need to cut funding to prisons. Your Drug Court should already be a part of  your community’s  2010 “reentry task force. Federal and state funding is pouring into reentry processes, and Drug Court stands on the precipice of becoming the next generation comprehensive Drug Court, the Reentry/Drug Court. At the the 10 year Anniversary of the CCJ Resolution22/COSCA Resolution IV , it might be well to remember the people, organizations,  and historical  documents that are making this impossible dream possible.

It wasn’t necessarily going to work out this way. The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) weren’t terribly fond of special courts. They had a bad rap for consuming resources and creating judicial fiefdoms. When Drug Court came along twenty yeas ago, there was scepticism and even hostility from state bureaucracies and territorial paranoia from some drug court judges. But then it began to turn around. By the time the Clinton Administration had come on board, CCJ, COSCA and their partner, The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) had changed course and begun an effort to work with and provide guidance to the drug court field. Califronia, Florida and New York led the way, with limited financial, educational and technical assistance. But most states stood on the sidelines, reluctant to take a chance on the new kid on the block.

It wasn’t until 1999 that things really began to change. California’s  State Court Administrator, Bill Vickrey, the newly installed President of COSCA, had shown a willingness to work with drug court practitioners in his own state; resourcing educational conferences and trainings, finding financial support to start over 100 California Drug Courts, and encouraging Drug Court Judges to take the lead in developing a powerful statewide grassroots movement. Dan Becker, then Utah’s State Court Administrator, co-chair of the CCJ/COSCA Drug Court task force, put it  this way  in a 2001 interview , “It started with an initiative by Bill Vickery, when he was the President of COSCA, to begin looking at emerging policy questions that Administrators and Chief Justices need to be concerned about, that put us in the position of anticipating issues rather than reacting to new issues.” Bill Vickrey and California Chief Justice Ron George (as well as others) took the lead in advocating for a joint CCJ/COSCA Resolution endorsing drug courts and the newly emerging courts to be known as problem-solving courts. What is truely extraordinary was the fact that all 50 Chief Justices and all 50 State Court Administrators went on to unanimously adopt that joint resolution.

In the 10 years since the “Resolution”was adopted, a new dynamic has been created within the criminal justice system. With the highest level of state court administration committed to the problem-solving model, drug courts and its progeny have enjoyed a ligitimacy that has translated into increased funding, political influence and respect that had eluded them in the past.  Recently,  The National Association of Drug Court Professionals elected Missouri Chief Justice Ray Price as its Board President, while  a 2009 CCJ/COSCA Resolution reaffirmed its endorsement of drug courts, calling for  the federal government to fund drug courts at the $250 million level. There are Drug Courts in every state,  state program coordinators almost everywhere, and new problem-solving courts proliferating. Significantly, the California legislature has recently passed a “Parolee Reentry Court Program”, the biggest and most ambitious reentry/drug court project ever, funded with $10 million, to be administered by the California Administrative Office of the Courts. We should take this opportunity at the start of the new year to reflect on what has been accomplished over the past ten years, before we move on to the next-generation, comprehensive drug court, the reentry/drug court model.

NADCP Introduces Resource Center: “Reentry Court Solutions”

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) made this important announcement in an email yesterday to thousands of its drug court and  related practitioners/subscribers. “Designed to provide critical information to those interested in effective Reentry Court strategies, Reentry Court Solutions is a new national resource center dedicated to all things Reentry Courts.”  Judge Jeffrey Tauber (ret.), Director of “Reentry Court Solutions” described his satisfaction with the the Resource Center’s first days. “I would like to thank NADCP for their collaboration and support in getting “Reentry Court Solutions” off the ground. We’ve had hundreds of contacts from all over the country and across the world. I believe that the launching of a “National Reentry Court Resource Center” marks the beginning of a new focus on the importance of the reentry court model in the criminal justice system”.

ON MY Mind I: Overcoming Our Prison Addiction

Twenty years ago, along with other drug court pioneers, I helped build a national reform movement that today claims over twenty-five hundred drug and other problem-solving courts. And while I am truely proud  of our successes,  the truth is that the criminal justice system remains overly-cautious, limiting drug courts to the less severe drug abuser and/or the less serious criminal, reaching perhaps only 5% of drug offenders.  This makes little sense as drug court’s scientifically proven effectiveness lies with the high-risk non-violent substance abusers who make up more than 50% of prisoners (Marlowe).

We live in a country plainly addicted to prison; with the highest imprisonment rate in the world, a prison population that has increased 700% since 1970,  over 75% imprisoned for non-violent offenses, and 50% returned to prison within three years of release.  It’s not that prison isn’t  necessary , but that we’ve become habituated to its use, whether appropriate or not . We are just coming out of the addict’s denial phase,  and beginning to accept the fact that our overdependence on prison has catastropic social and financial consequences. But as with all recovering addicts, there is reason to hope for a better future . The reentry court is clearly not the whole answer to our prison addiction (for example, it will also take dedicated partners in a host of rehabilitation services), but as the evolutionary next-generation drug court, there is excellent reason to believe reentry court will be part of the solution. [see  Policy Papers, for a full exposition]

Contact: [email protected]

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