Literature Review Chapter: Offender Re-Entry Project Programs

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Offender Re-Entry Program

ASSESSING ADEQUACY

Offender reentry covers all activities and programs, which help prepare former offenders to return safely in their communities, assimilate and live again as law-abiding citizens (James, 2011). It is, however, unfortunate that some of them eventually go back to prison at the 1994 rate of 2/3 within three years of release. Recidivists, compared with average law-abiding citizens, are less educated, less gainfully employed and more likely to be involved in drug use or with a history of mental illness. These are consequences of incarceration (James). Mass imprisonments in the 1980s and 1990s generated a prisoner reentry crisis and its unpredictable long-term consequences (O'Hear, 2007). Almost all of them eventually re-enter their previous communities where they committed their crimes (O'Hear, 2007). These communities are already saddled as it is with many kinds of serious social problems. These prisoners also re-enter their former homes and communities with scars they accumulate in prison in addition to a criminal record. Records say that there are 8 times more re-entering prisoners today than in 1970. Where they return to will eventually and inevitably experience higher rates of crime, homeless, substance abuse and social services needs. Resources in social agencies are already thinly spread as it is (O'Hear).

The three phases of offender re-entry programs are during incarceration, during release, and during permanent reintegration into the community (James, 2011). Current offender reentry program designs have different ranges, scopes and methodologies. Research has suggested that the most effective are those started in the first phase and carried through release and integration (James).

The purpose of the study is to evaluate current prison reentry reform programs. The significance is that it will provide policymakers a basis for streamlining current programs. The hypothesis is that a more realistic prison reentry reform program will satisfactorily reduce recidivism rates and address related issues. The statement of the problem is that a more responsive prison reentry reform program is badly needed.

II. Methods

Keywords include offender reentry programs, prison reentry statistics, and effective prison reentry programs. Databases included BioMed Central, PubMed, The Prison Journal, Federal Probation, Congressional Research Service and Urban Institute. Criteria used were as many offender reentry programs to fit the number of pages, background and statistics to prison reentry, challenges and evaluations of effectiveness.

A total of 9 sources was selected on the basis of the criteria. Of this number, there were 5 studies that evaluated 5 offender reentry programs; 1 source on statistics and 3 on insights, challenges and an assessment of such current programs. The years covered by these selected sources were 2001 to 2011. Their databases were the Rappaport Institute, The CRA Report for Congress, the University of Cincinnati, the Journal of Psychoanalytic Drug from PubMed, the Marquett University Law School, the University of California Irvine, the Addiction Science and Clinical Practice at BioMed Central, Crime and Delinquency and the Justice Policy Center.

This study uses the descriptive-normative method of research in recording, describing, interpreting, analyzing and comparing data from five updated and authoritative sources.

III. Results

Second Chance Act

This study reviews 5 offender reentry programs and their effectiveness to-date. The first is the Second Chance Act, grounded on a $300 million prison reentry budget (O'Hear, 2007). The concept was to help returning inmates when they can't find jobs and to keep them from sliding back to criminality. The Act would complement other initiatives of federal, state and local agencies, such the Department of Justice's Serious and Violent Offender Reentry initiative. This was a $130 million grant program, which ran from 2003 to 2005 (O'Hear).

Returning Home on Parole

A multi-State longitudinal study on the experiences of offenders on parole disclosed a high level of rapport with parole officers (Yahner et al., 2008). The study, entitled "Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry," examined the perspective of 740 former male prisoners in Illinois, Ohio and Texas from 2002 to 2005. Their average age was 36 with 31% below 30 upon release. Of their number, 68% were previously incarcerated and 74% released on parole. The parolees were 15% white and 85% non-white. Instead of parole supervision, surveillance is largely practiced. Surveillance has shown to be ineffective in curbing recidivism. Bureau of Justice Statistics say that prisoners released to parole supervision were are many as those released without it. This hinted that a business-like atmosphere was unlikely to enhance safety in the community or the parolees' lives. Another report on parole by the National Research Council in 2007 said that the results of community reintegration were unclear and that some offenders seemed to benefit from it while others did not (Yahner et al.).

Controlling Violent Offenders

The Boston Reentry Initiative or BRI was an interagency assistance available for released violent adult offenders to help them transition from the local jail to their community in Boston. Assistance covered mentoring, social services, and vocational development. The study was intended to evaluate the effects of the BRI on the subsequent recidivism of the respondents (Braga et al.).

Successful Reentry Programs for Drug-Abusing Parolees

These parolees need specific interventions, which provide effective treatment (Predergast, 2009). First, their patterns of thinking and behavior and life require that their treatment not only prevent recidivism but also condition their response to their drug abuse treatment. Second, criminal activity that leads to a return to prison will interrupt and perhaps cancel the patient's progress toward recovery. Reentry programs that adhere to the principles of effective treatment of affected offenders utilize already tested treatment approaches and techniques. At the same time, they collaborate with criminal justice agencies and social services systems. With this dynamic combination, these programs can provide the best chance for drug-abusing parolees to control or reduce their drug use and crime. That way, they can also successfully and gradually reintegrate into society. This article reviews evidence-based drug abuse interventions of adult parolees and probationer. Then the focus shifts to interventions for general drug-abusing populations, which seem promising for offenders. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses in the past 20 years suggest key features to the effectiveness of certain interventions (Predergast).

IV. Discussion

The Second Chance Act or SCA consisted of grants to State, local and tribal authorities. As criteria, grant recipients must develop reentry strategic plans with measurable outcomes, particularly a 50% recidivism reduction in 5 years. The recipients must also prove increased employment, education and housing opportunities for the offenders. The Act likewise required the recipients to collaborate with corrections, health, housing, child welfare education, substance abuse, victims services, and law enforcement. The SCA emphasizes recidivism reduction as a main goal (O'Hear, 2007). But it also provides assistance for the offender's support needs for housing, employment, education and substance abuse treatment as contributory to crime prevention. It promotes planning, multi-agency collaboration and their continuity. The Act, as a whole, debunks the assumption that threats alone will reduce recidivism. Rather, it provides for services for a new life, not grudgingly, but systematically and proactively (O'Hear).

A multi-State longitudinal study on the experiences of offenders on parole disclosed a high level of rapport with parole officers (Yahner et al., 2008). The study, entitled "Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry," examined the perspective of 740 former male prisoners in Illinois, Ohio and Texas from 2002 to 2005. Their average age was 36 with 31% below 30 upon release. Of their number, 68% were previously incarcerated and 74% released on parole. The parolees were 15% white and 85% non-white. Instead of parole supervision, surveillance is largely practiced. Surveillance has shown to be ineffective in curbing recidivism. Bureau of Justice Statistics say that prisoners released to parole supervision were are many as those released without it. This hinted that a business-like atmosphere was unlikely to enhance safety in the community or the parolees' lives. Another report on parole by the National Research Council in 2007 said that the results of community reintegration were unclear and that some offenders seemed to benefit from it while others did not. This Returning Home study found high and positive attitudes in the parolees towards their parole officers, indicating the potential impact of the officers on parolees' behavior (Yahner et al., 2008). There were, however, no clear link between these positive relationships and proofs of reintegration, such as jobs, treatment and positive living situation. For their part, parolees reported mixed results of successes and failures in reintegration. Successes were linked with favorable employment and control of substance use. These, in turn, accrued to reduced likelihood of future criminal behavior. Parolees and non-parolees reported fairly equal levels of criminal behavior. This implied the use of imprisonment as sanction for technical violations and that community-based sanctions would do better than incarceration to discourage the violations. One more finding was that older parolees and those with more parole failures did not seem to benefit from parole supervision. Parole supervision thus stood a greater chance to influence parolees with milder criminal histories. Parole supervision effect was not too significant on high-risk members of the population. There was, thus, a need… [END OF PREVIEW]

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