Authored by Congressional Research Service
The number of people incarcerated in the United States grew steadily for nearly 30 years. That number has been slowly decreasing since 2008, but as of 2012 there were still over 2 million people incarcerated in prisons and jails across the country. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that since 1990 an average of 590,400 inmates have been released annually from state and federal prisons and almost 5 million ex-offenders are under some form of community-based supervision.
Nearly all prisoners will return to their communities as some point. Offender reentry can include all the activities and programming conducted to prepare prisoners to return safely to the community and to live as law-abiding citizens. Some ex-offenders, however, eventually end up back in prison. The BJS’s most recent study on recidivism showed that within five years of release nearly three-quarters of ex-offenders released in 2005 came back into contact with the criminal justice system, and more than half returned to prison after either being convicted for a new crime or for violating the conditions of their release. Compared with the average American, ex-offenders are less educated, less likely to be gainfully employed, and more likely to have a history of mental illness or substance abuse-all of which have been shown to be risk factors for recidivism.
Three phases are associated with offender reentry programs: programs that take place during incarceration, which aim to prepare offenders for their eventual release; programs that take place during offenders’ release period, which seek to connect ex-offenders with the various services they may require; and long-term programs that take place as ex-offenders permanently reintegrate into their communities, which attempt to provide offenders with support and supervision. There is a wide array of offender reentry program designs, and these programs can differ significantly in range, scope, and methodology. Researchers in the offender reentry field have suggested that the best programs begin during incarceration and extend throughout the release and reintegration process. Despite the relative lack of highly rigorous research on the effectiveness of some reentry programs, an emerging “what works” literature suggests that programs focusing on work training and placement, drug and mental health treatment, and housing assistance have proven to be effective.
The federal government’s involvement in offender reentry programs typically occurs through grant funding, which is available through a wide array of federal programs at the Departments of Justice, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. However, only a handful of grant programs in the federal government are designed explicitly for offender reentry purposes. The Department of Justice has started an interagency Reentry Council to coordinate federal reentry efforts and advance effective reentry policies.
Jan 12 2015
1507737416 / 9781507737415
US Trade Paper
8.5″ x 11″
Black and White
Political Science / General