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February 17, 2014

The federal Government has recently doubled down on their investment in drug courts. What was once a  $6 million federal program has grown to a major government project amounting to approximately one hundred million dollars.

As described in the Grant Publication,”The goal of the Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program is to build and/or expand drug court capacity at the state, local and tribal levels to reduce crime and substance abuse among high-risk, high need offenders. States, Local courts, Counties, Units of local government, and Indian tribal nations are eligible for 60 grants.

States that are looking to improve, expand or enhance drug court services statewide and/or financially support drug courts in local jurisdictions  are eligible for grants of up to $1.5 million over a three year period.

While not directly aimed at court-focused prison reform, it would not be difficult to design a grant project that would use its resources on offenders who were otherwise heading for prison. State agencies should take a long look at the money available under this and other federal programs, that can be used to reduce prison populations, drug abuse, and criminality in their communities.

“States applying for funding under this subcategory must demonstrate a statewide, data-driven strategy for reaching and expanding capacity of drug court options and services for nonviolent substance-abusing offenders, which may include: implementing new drug courts; reaching capacity of existing drug courts; and expanding/enhancing capacity of existing drug courts to reach specific or emerging offender populations with drug treatment needs. The support provided through such statewide awards must also be consistent with the evidence-based principles outlined above” (Drug Court Funding)

 All applications are due by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on March 18, 2014. 



Justice Reinvestment Initiative leads Prison Reform

The Best Of: The following article, first published on May 14, 2012, describes the critical role the “Justice Reinvestment Initiative”, led by the PEW Center for the States and the Council of State Governments, have had on the prison reform movement.

A recent Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) funded initiative is having an extraordinary effect on prison reform efforts in states across the nation. The “Justice Reinvestment Initiative” is a joint project of the PEW Center for the States, the Council of State Governmant and the Vera Institute They are providing assistance and support to states in an effort to reduce prison populations,  establish non-prison penalties for non-violent offenses, increase good time/work time for prisoners, and generally encouraging states to return or keep prisoners in local jurisdictions, while reinvesting funds saved by these reforms in “alternatives to prison”. The Council of State Government’s National Reentry Resource Center has a Resource Project Page devoted to the  “Justice Reinvestment Initiative” To access it, click on the page facsimile on the left.

According to information provided by BJA, “Justice Reinvestment is a data-driven approach to reduce corrections spending and re-direct savings to other criminal justice strategies that decrease crime and strengthen neighborhoods. They work closely with state and local policymakers to help design policies that manage the growth of the corrections system. They are finding ways to improve the availability of services, such as housing, substance abuse treatment, employment training, and positive social and family support for offenders returning to communities. They are also looking to reinvest savings generated from reductions in corrections spending to make communities safer, stronger, and healthier.”

What is incontrovertable, is that states are adopting the policy changes advocated and are passing ground-breaking reforms in many of the most conservative states in the nation (most recently Georgia, Oaklahoma, and Louisians; see articles in Facebook collumn on the right side of website).  To access comprehensive information on what the “Justice Reinvestment Initiative” is doing in a listed state, just click on the state below, and you will be linked directly to National Reentry Resource Center information:

“Second Chance Act” Celebrates 5th Anniversary

April 29,2013

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 9.01.54 AM[The Second Chance Act, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), within the Department of Justice (DOJ), has provided hundreds of millions of dollars for reentry projects in every state of the union. Below, the National Reentry Resource Center, provides highlights of BJA’s administration of the “Act” (click on image on left for PDF of National Reentry Resource Center Document)]

The Second Chance Act: The First Five Years

This month marks the five-year anniversary of the Second Chance Act, the landmark legislation authorizing federal grants to support programs aimed at improving outcomes for people leaving prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities and reducing recidivism. The bill also funds research and evaluation projects and created the National Reentry Resource Center, a clearinghouse of information relating to prisoner reentry. Through its broad scope and innovative approach, the bill has had a significant impact on all stakeholders: individuals and families in need of services; communities and governments seeking strategies to increase public safety and reduce costs; researchers looking to inform, advance, and disseminate their work; and practitioners interested in enhancing their programs and sharing best practices with others in the field.

The grant program currently funds eight different types of projects: demonstration projects involving the planning and/or implementation of a reentry initiative for adults or juveniles, mentoring services for adults or juveniles, family-based substance abuse treatment for incarcerated parents, reentry courts, programs targeting individuals with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders, funding for state departments of corrections to achieve recidivism reductions through planning and capacity-building, evidence-based strategies in probation supervision, and programs providing training in technology careers. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) manages the juvenile demonstration and juvenile mentoring projects, while the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) of the U.S. Department of Justice manages all the other projects.

To date, BJA and OJJDP have awarded nearly 500 Second Chance Act grants to state, local, and tribal government agencies and nonprofit organizations across 48 states and the District of Columbia, totaling nearly $250 million. Representing a wide range in geography, size, and program design, the grantee programs display the different ways that reentry strategies can be applied in jurisdictions.

Reflecting the importance of reentry as a process that begins during incarceration, grantees must serve individuals both in pre-release and post-release stages. According to BJA’s latest performance reports on its Second Chance Act grantees, the grantees served more than 11,000 participants in pre-release programs and nearly 9,500 participants in post-release programs from July 2011 to June 2012. The vast majority of participants are assessed as medium or high risk, which is in line with research that shows that focusing services and resources on higher-risk individuals has the strongest impact on recidivism.

Some programs have already seen reduced recidivism rates among the people they serve within the first few years of the grant program. For the Harlem Parole Reentry Court in New York, which has received two Second Chance Act grants, preliminary results from an ongoing evaluation showed that the rate of reincarceration at 12 months after release of 14.7 percent for program participants was 24 percent less than a comparison group’s rate of 19.3 percent. The reentry court serves medium- and high-risk adults in Harlemand offers a combination of intensive case management, parole supervision, judicial intervention, clinical services, and other support services. Furthermore, the program employs the evidence-based practice of graduated sanctions and incentives to promote compliance and accountability.

In addition, Second Chance Act grantees have achieved positive outcomes on a number of other measures, including employment, education, family reunification, and pro-social relationships. For instance, the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, a 2010 Adult Mentoring grantee, has found that 74 percent of the participants who received employment development services have since obtained employment.

The positive impact of the Second Chance Act can perhaps be best conveyed by the program participants themselves. Since early 2012, the Council of State Governments Justice Center has interviewed program administrators and participants and shared their individual stories in the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) website and newsletter. The people featured have included: Wade, a Los Angeles man in his fifties whose participation in the Amity Foundation’s mentoring program helped him overcome his addiction to heroin and become a mentor himself; Frankie, a father in New Mexico who enrolled in PB&J Family Services’ program while in prison and received help finding employment and parenting pre- and post-release; and Janelle, a young woman with co-occurring bipolar and substance abuse disorders who found a job and returned to school after receiving treatment from the Ohio Department of Youth Services’ Second Chance Act-funded program in Franklin County. Each of these stories represents the success and promise of the Second Chance Act and initiatives focusing on prisoner reentry across the country.

Also funded by the Second Chance Act, the NRRC has made great strides in advancing reentry work by promoting and disseminating key information for practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and others in the field. In addition to the website and newsletter, the NRRC offers webinars each month. Recent topics have included work release centers, electronic technology in supervision, and the needs of women in the criminal justice system. The NRRC also produces reports and guides to inform reentry work in practical and constructive ways. Its most recent product is a series of checklists with targeted guidance for state corrections departments and policymakers on building reentry initiatives to reduce recidivism.

The Second Chance Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on April 9, 2008, after receiving bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. The bill authorizes up to $165 million per year in grant funds.


1 Year Process Evaluation of 8 Reentry Courts

March 11, 2013

Picture 3The DOj is putting money and effort into a project that  focuses on the  development of court based reentry efforts. One can sometimes get the impression that the courts are not a significant focus in the  federal government’s approach to state prison reentry issues. This project shows the opposite to be true.

The National institutue of Justice has released a one year process evaluation of eight Adult Reentry Courts that are sponsored under the BJA Second Chance Act. The National Institute of Justice’s “Evaluation of Second Chance Act Adult Reentry Courts: Program Characteristics and Preliminary Themes from Year 1”, was authored by Christine Lindquist, Jennifer Hardison Walters, Michael Rempel, and Shannon M. Carey. The document is the product of RTI International, The Center for Court innovation and NPC Research.  (click on image on the left for PDF of evaluation)

The eight reentry court jurisdictions being funded and evaluated are Union County, Arkansas, New Castle County, Delaware, Pinellas County, Florida, Boone County, Missouri, Strafford County, New Hampshire, Stark County, Ohio, Bexar County, Texas, and Norfolk County, Virginia.

The process evaluation will document the implementation of the evolving programs through three rounds of site visits, and be followed by an impact evaluation and a cost –benefit evaluation.

 From the I year site visit and process evaluation,

“Several programmatic characteristics were common across most sites, including the emphasis on post-release service delivery, the provision of a breadth of services relevant to the target population (with all sites offering substance abuse treatment and employment services), the use of a case management approach to coordinate and monitor services, the use of court hearings for the purpose of monitoring participants’ progress in the program, the use of drug testing, and a team approach to decision-making regarding sanctions and rewards. In all sites, reentry court participation is used as a condition of supervision, with the sentencing judge retaining jurisdiction over the participant in most sites. Therefore, almost all participants are under community supervision by a parole or probation officer for the entire duration of reentry court participation.”

“Second Chance” Solicitation for Statewide Recidivism Reduction

April 16, 2012

The Bureau if Justice Assistance (BJA) has announced a solicitation available to states interested in reducing statewide recidivism. This program will assist states in developing and implementing comprehensive plans to reduce statewide recidivism rates. Applicants must be state departments of corrections to be eligible and the deadline is May 21, 2012.

That is an important, though perhaps obvious point to make. Prison reform may be encouraged and supported by local jurisdictions, but significant changes can only come from the state and thorugh state policy makers. (Council of State Governments’ Reentry Resource Center information on this solicitation can be accessed by clicking on facimile on the left)

Yes; “Second Chance” Grants Are Available to Reentry Courts

Mar. 19, 2012

Three BJA “Second Chance Act” Demonstration Solicitations

If you’ve read the three “demonstration Grant” Solicitations under the “Second Chance Act, you’ll find little mention of the courts.  The funds referenced in last weeks article (“Three Second Chance Solicitations”), appear to primarily target state or local government agencies. That would appear to eliminate involvement of individual courts themselves (at least as to the “Planning and Demonstration Solicitation” where there is no reference to courts at all). But there’s no reason that an individual court  should not be a beneficiary, along with the rest of the community, from resources made available through the “Second Chance Act”.

Note the language in the Solicitation (Second Chance Act Adult Offender Reentry Program for Planning and Demonstration,  Projects; p.4)

“Within the context of this initiative, “reentry” is not envisioned to be a specific program, but rather a process that begins when the offender is first incarcerated (pre-release) and ends with the offender’s successful community reintegration (post-release), evidenced by lack of recidivism”.

There is little reason to believe that that language can be satisfactorily applied without the participation of the courts. The court sentences the offender to custody and has supervisory responsibilities for the returning offender in many cases (from jail and/or prison). So if you have a reentry court, or wish to involve your court in a community based reentry system in your locality, you have the right and even the obligation to do so.

Each Solicitation requires that the community develop a “Reentry Task Force comprised of relevant state, tribal, territorial, or local leaders and representatives of relevant agencies, service providers, nonprofit organizations, and other key stakeholders” (see Solicitation, p.5). With the understanding that the courts will not likely be the applicant nor the direct receiver of funds (at least as to “Planning and Demonstration Projects”), courts need to be “key stakeholders”, who benefit, along with the community, when resources are made available to felons under the court’s supervisory authority.


CA Courts looking to BJA Reentry Court Funding


The Bureau of Justice Programs is moving forward with plans to provide grants of $500,000 each, for up to three years to Reentry Courts, under 2011 “Second Chance Act” funding. In California and elsewhere, where states are moving swiftly towards a county-based parole reentry and/or revocation system, local jurisdictions should seriously look at the potential for three year funding of their reentry/revocation court efforts.

Please keep in mind that the Reentry Court Grant Application must be filed by June 30th.

“Discussion on Reentry Courts ” Published

Practitioners, Academicians and Policy makers met at  a seminal “Focus Group”, at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals Conference in Boston, in June of 2010, to discuss critical issues surrounding the implementation of Reentry Courts in the U.S. Sponsored by the Bureau f Justice Assistance (BJA),the focus group itself, was  planned and co-facilitated by NADCP President Emeritus Judge Jeffrey Tauber (ret.), Al Siegel, Deputy Director of the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), along with BJA staffer, Jacqueline Rivers. The most experienced reentry court practitioners from around the country were brought together in an effort to discuss the effectiveness, feasibility, limitations, obstacles, and successes  of Reentry Courts. The Publication itself, a Conversation about Strategies for Offender Reintegration, was writen by Robert Wolf and published by CCI.

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