Reentry Court RFP: A New “Evidence-Base” Standard

Note: Deadline for applications; June 3, 2010

This is the second of several articles  on the “Second Chance Act” Reentry Court Solicitation. In this analysis,  I will review the RFP from a Evidence Based Sentencing (EBS) Perspective.

The new BJA Rentry Court Solicitation clearly differs from those for previous Problem-Solving Courts. In some ways it is the first of its kind. At an initial reading, one notes the lack of any reference to the “Drug Court Ten Key Components”. As recently as February of this year, Drug Courts, along with, DUI, Mental Health, Veterans, and Community Court applicants were required to show how thir programs complied with the Ten Key components. So while Reentry Courts emerged from the drug court court field, there appears to be some recognition that they are substantially different from them.

Under this solicitaiton, reentry court applicants   must adhere to the “Six Core Components” (see p.3), as described in the 2003 publication, Reentry Courts Process Evaluation (Phase 1), reflecting the research and experience of nine reentry court research sites that were  part of  a previous, short lived Reentry Court Initiative  (RCI: 2000). A review of that document, as well as other historical documents, would be a good place to begin this application process (NCJR Reentry Court Documents)

More importantly, the entire focus of this RFP takes us in a new direction.  While problem solving court applicants must follow the statutory prohibition against violent offenders as participants, found in the drug court solicitation (42 U.S.C. 3797u-2; found at p1,f1), there is no such prohibition for reentry courts. The perceived intent of the reentry court solicitiaition is to reduce recidicism of serious offenders through the application of  Evidence Based Sentencing Practices (referred euphemisticaly  in the RFP as “evidence based activities”).

Importantly, this is the first BJA problem-solving court RFP that requires the identification of high risk offenders through the application of a validated risk/needs assessment tool, a key component of any EBP based sentencing strategy (note: high risk in this context refers to the risk to reoffend). While EBP began in the medical and treatment fields (and is a part of some BJA RFPs as they relate to treatment programs), this Reentry Court Solicitation breaks new ground, in prioritizing those applications that will apply evidence-based practices to problem-solving court components.

Inquiries about this “Request For Proposal” should be directed to Dr. Gary Dennis, Senior Policy Advisor For Corrections, at (202) 305-9059 or [email protected].

“Second Chance” Reentry Court RFP: A New Day

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 “Second Chance Act”  (Sec. 111), offers 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).

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).

Inquiries about this “Request For Proposal” should be directed to Dr. Gary Dennis, Senior Policy Advisor For Corrections, at (202) 305-9059 or [email protected].

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