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 (a grantee of the Reentry Court Initiative of 2000), 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 (with a recommendation by the Richland County Reentry Court Coordinator, who has been monitoring the offender’s progress closely). Once returned to the community, the reentry court’s treatment, rehabilitation and monitoring team (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]