Dallas SAFPF Court: Where Reentry Court is Also Pre-Entry Court






Graduates of the Dallas SAFPC Program, (which can also be described as a “Front End Reentry Court”), with Judge Robert Francis.


THE BEST OF: The following article, published on Dec.13,2009, describes the success of the Dallas SAFPC  program  placing drug offenders, a probation program located on a prison site, that returns the offender to the community after relatively short period in custody.

The Dallas Reentry Court is a excellent example of the extraordinary innovation (and sometimes bewildering variation) among pre-entry courts, that divert offenders from a prison sentence to a probation based custodial program. What makes the Dallas SAFPF Program unique, is that its custodial segment is actually situated on prison grounds, yet program participants are segregated from the prison population, and never leave the jurisdiction of the County SAPFP Court Program.

The Texas legislature’s “4C program” provides  in-custody facilities within the prison’s outer perimeter , and uses specially trained, but regular prison guards. Although there are approximately ten jurisdictions that take advantage of “4c” facilites, Dallas is by far the largest, and the only one that has a court and judge dedicated to the reentry mission. Seventeen Dallas judges sentence drug offenders to the  SAFPF program, but when offenders finsh their in-custody treatment (typically 6 to 9 months),  they enter a dedicated Reentry Court for monitoring, continued treatment and rehabilitative services.

Judge Robert Francis, a retired judge, works full time as the reentry court judge. He and his staff take regualr trips to the “4C” facilities to check up on Dallas based offenders. Plans are in the works to reward those who do well well in the in-custody program.  Though the progam is less than a year old, 275  participants have completed the in-custody “4C” treatment program, and been released into the care and custody of Judge Francis and the Dallas SAFPF Reeentry Court,  where revocations are at an extraordinarily low 5%.

Contact: [email protected]

Conservatives Latch onto Prison Reform

march 13th

The results are in, the ride over. The only thing that liberals and conservatives appear to agree on is prison reform. It’s hard to argue the issue when everyone has adopted one side of the argument. As commented on in this website many a time, everyone is for prison reform these days, with hardly a squeak from prison guard unions or District Attorneys’ offices. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times, “Conservatives latch onto prison reform” describes the depth of the adoption of criminal justice reform by conservative leaders and advocacy groups.

What that means to those who have fought for reform for a very long time, is that the stars are aligned in the heavens, and it’s time to push hard for real prison reform. That means, not only returning prisoners to their communities with alternative community-based sentences, but keeping offenders out of prison in the first place, with Pre-Entry Courts that provide an alternative to prison. Reentry courts, for returning high risk offenders, will clearly  be a part of that reform package.

Yes, it’s time to demand reform, but it must be effective reform. If we mess this up, we could be waiting a very long time before we have another oppotunity. Everyone seems to favor alternatives to prison, but little is said of what alternatives we speak, their efficacy, or cost-effectiveness. Our greatest fear shouldn’t be that we will send prisoners home to poorly funded prison alternatives and find they don’t work. One thing worse that underfunding prison alternatives, is building a criminal justice system on the rotting structure of the exisiting one. Clearly reform needs to be built from the ground up, rather than funding existing programs that have never proven their worth, or worse, been found to be counter-productive. Reform has to be built on sound scientific evidence, based on decades of unassailable research, and memorialized in such publications as the Center for Effective Public Policy’s “Implementing Evidence-Based Practices” (see Cont: Evidence Based Practices Point the Way).

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.

Ten Reasons to Build A Reentry Court in 2010

The Reentry Process is nothing new to the Drug Court Practitioner. Drug court has always been a reentry mechanism; a seamless process for returning the drug offender from arrest and criminal adjudication , through community-based rehabilitation and monitoring, to the offender’s reintegration into the community. What is different in 2010, is the immediate need to expand drug courts into next-generation comprehensive reentry/drug courts. Consider the following reasons to expand your drug court into a reentry/drug court in 2010:

1.       There has been a sesmic shift in the nation’s attitude toward imprisonment and prisons. The entire nation seems desperately focused on the prison problem, and its financial and social costs,  New, untested (or tested and failed) reentry systems are positioning themselves as reform champions and therefore, recipients of prison reform funding (leaving the courts out in many instances).

3.       The Drug Court has been tested, evaluated, and analyzed over the past twenty years on an unparalleled scale. The scientific community has concluded that the drug court provides the most effective means to rehabilitate, hold accountable, and reintegrate the “high risk”, non-violent, drug involved offender back into the community. ( Doug Marlowe: A Sober Assessment of Drug Court). Reentry courts are, in fact, Drug Court models.

4.      The federal government  appears to recognize the success of the Drug Court model, when they encourage programs providing “evidence-based practices”, such as the seamless transitioning from custody to community, and graduated sanctions and incentives. Drug courts in large part pioneered those practices.

5.       The “Second Chance Act”, and other federal and state initiatives specifically emphasize the need for community-based “task forces”, that work collaboratively in integrating the offender into the community and sharing resources and funding streams to make the process truly a community-wide effort. Most Drug Courts have been engaged in community-wide collaborations since their inception.

6.       Reentry/Drug courts represent the future of the drug court field; a next  generation, comprehensive drug court that works with “high-risk, non-violent, drug involved offenders. The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA), have  endorsed drug court on four separate occasions, since 2000, as the lynchpin of future court systems, emphasizing their effectivenesss in dealing with issues such as “recidivism”. (see CCJ Resolution 22/COSCA Resolution 4)

7.       Rather than re-inventing the wheel, the nation’s Reentry Reform Movement can take advantage of over two thousand drug courts already in existence. The court-based mechanisms that insure accountability, the trained personnel, the structure and community relationships are already in place. Decision-makers, from drug court practitioners,  to state drug court coordinators, to policy makers in the judicial, legislative, and executive branches need to be made aware of this, evidence-based, scientifically proven and cost-effective alternative.

8.       Probation or Jail-Based Reentry Courts (sometimes called Pre-entry Courts) represent the simplest solution to prison-overcrowding and reentry issues. The best way to deal with jail-overcrowding and reentry issues, is not to sentence the non-violent, high-risk drug offenders to prison in the first place, but  place those who would otherwise go to prison, under state court and probation jurisdiction, in next-generation, comprehensive reentry/ drug courts (see Reentry/Drug Court Model)

7.       Although somewhat more problematic ( as jurisdiction typically lies with the executive branch), prison-based reentry courts are being piloted in many states. Relying on innovative structures such as split-sentencing, or collaborative  sentencing systems that engage the returning offender in a seamless transition into the community, they appear to be an effective means  to hold ex-prisoners accountable as they engage in the reintegration process. (see Ten Prison-Based Reentry Models)

9.      While federal funding for drug courts increased substantially this year, state and county funding is being cut back in many jurisdictions. Reentry funding  on the other hand is expanding rapidly. The “Second Chance Act” alone, increased its funding four-fold to $100 million plus over last year. With an almost zealous intensity, state and federal authorities are determined to reduce funding for prison and prisoners, while seemingly intent to increase funding for prison alternatives and  reentry reform at an  increasing rate in the coming years.

10.    The impact of drug courts have been limited to little more than 5% of drug-involved offenders. It’s time for drug courts and their practitioners to step up and assert their place in the reentry process ( and in “reentry task forces” being formed in their communities), as the proven, and most successful approach to the “high-risk”, non-violent, drug-involved offenders that populate our jails and prisons. The opportunity to do so may not come again.

$10 Million Reentry Court Funding Passes Congress


On Decemeber 13th, Congress appropriated $10 million dollars for Reentry Courts under “Section 111” of the Second Chance Act.  In all, a total of $100 was appropriated under the  “Second Chance Act”.  Additionally the Department of Justice (DOJ)  provided $14 million for reentry initiatives within the Federal Bureau of  Prisons, and the Department of Labor earmarked $108 million for work/training related services. (see Reentry Policy Council press release)

“Second Chance  Act” funding is up four-fold from a year ago.   It should be noted that reentry courts and their community partners may be able to appropriately access far more than the funds made specifically available to “reentry courts”. Much of that money will be available to community based coalitions made up of government, non-profit, and  other community organizations. There may be more than $300 million available during fiscal year 2010 for community-based  coalitons that have a reentry  court as one of its partners.

Pre-entry Courts in the Age of Reentry

Pre-Entry Court is a county probation-based reentry court and an advanced next generation drug court, . Typically, non-violent drug offenders are placed on  probation, with a state prison sentence suspended, and the offender ordered to attend, participate, and complete an in-custody treatment program as a condition of probation ( for those legally inclined, “execution of sentence is suspended”).  In essence, rather than dealing with the  offender after they serve a prison term (with all its dibilitating consequences) they are given their last best opportunity to enter a “pre-entry court” (or a “before entry to  prison court”) and avoid a formal prison commitment.

For example,  County Jail-Based Reentry Courts offer the possibility of reducing state prison populations with their extraordinary costs,while providing the serious non-violent offender, the  seamless  monitoring, treatment, and rehabilitative services of  a comprehensive drug court.  (It can be confusing at first, to realize that there are two kinds of reentry courts, one dealing with prison reentry, the other with those returning from extended jail or other probation-based custodial programs.)

Optimally, Pre-entry Courts (typically county-jail based reentry courts)  engage the offender at the time of plea and assessment through sentencing, entry into, and completion from an in-custody rehabilitation program. When released from custodial status into the community, the pre-entry court judge and team continue to monitor the probationer through progress hearings and finally program graduation.

Ultimately, a pre-entry court will be part of a Next Generation Drug Court System, providing comprehensive drug court services  to returnees from jail, other county-based custodial programs,  probation revocations, prison (and more traditional drug court participants, who typically do not receieve  an immediate custodial sentence). The emergence of fledgling  pre-entry courts, while focused mostly on those with substance abuse problems, is an important development in criminal justice reform, and arguably the best way to reduce both prison over-crowding and prison reentry failure, whether offenders are drug involved or not. [for a unique example of a pre-entry court, see Dallas SAFPF Reentry Court]

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