National Reentry Week hosts events around the nation

reentry

Attorney General Loretta Lynch

For those of you who don’t already know it, this week – April 24-30 – is the first ever National Reentry Week.

The designation was established by the U.S. Department of Justice, which says that the week is part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to make the U.S. criminal justice system fairer, more efficient and more effective at reducing recidivism.

“Too often, justice-involved individuals who have paid their debt to society confront daunting obstacles to good jobs, decent housing, adequate health care, quality education, and even the right to vote,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.

“National Reentry Week highlights the many ways that the Department of Justice – and the entire Obama Administration – is working to tear down the barriers that stand between returning citizens and a meaningful second chance – leading to brighter futures, stronger communities, and a morej just and equal nation for all.”

Lynch, along with U.S. Department. of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, will travel to Philadelphia on Monday, April 25, to hold events with public housing advocates, legal services providers and community leaders. Later in the week she will visit a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Talladega, Ala., to highlight reentry programs in prison.

Reentry events in all 50 states and elsewhere

Other events are taking place in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices alone are hosting more than 200 events, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons more than 370 events.

Among the events organized by the White House and the Department of Justice:

  • On Monday, April 25, the White House will hold an event with the Brennan Center on the costs of incarceration.
  • On Monday, April 25, Director Lisa Foster of the Office for Access Justice will hold a joint event in Los Angeles with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to announce new efforts to improve outcomes for justice-involved youth. She will also attend a Conviction and Sentence Alternatives (CASA) Program Graduation Ceremony in Los Angeles.
  • On Tuesday, April 26, Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason of the Office of Justice Programs will attend a girls mentoring event at a local detention facility. The event is sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
  • On Tuesday, April 26, Second Chance Fellow Daryl Atkinson of the Office of Justice Programs will deliver remarks at a reentry simulation in Birmingham sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama.
  • On Wednesday, April 27, the White House will host the Fair Chance Opportunities Champions of Change event in South Court Auditorium. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch will deliver remarks and Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates will moderate a panel at the event.
  • On Thursday, April 28, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division will deliver remarks at a reentry event at Mickey Leland Transitional Housing Facility, sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
  • On Friday, April 29, Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson of the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women will visit a federal women’s prison in West Virginia.
  • On Friday, April 29, the United States Department of Labor will host a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Federal Bonding Program. Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates will deliver remarks at the event.

 

RAND Corp. study calls for greater attention to inmate education

classroom-381900_640In its “How Effective is Correctional Education, and Where do We Go From Here?” research report, the RAND Corp. evaluated the content, funding and future of education programs at correctional facilities across the U.S.

Through funding from the Second Chance Act of 2007, the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice engaged RAND Corp. to research the status of correctional education. The results, laid out in this thought-provoking report released last year, call for more attention and research to be dedicated to this crucial issue.

With 40% of the 700,000 people who are released from federal and state prisons each year reincarcerated within three years, something has to be done – and that something should start with education and vocational programs that will help give them the skills they need to gain employment and stay out of prison, the study contends.

RAND researchers looked at four types of education: instruction in such basic skills as reading, writing and arithmetic; high school education to prepare for the GED; vocational education; and college level classes that could lead to an A.A. or B.A. degree. One requirement to be considered was that the education program take place – at least in part – within a correctional facility.

In evaluating 58 previous empirical research studies – selected from 1,112 conducted between 1980 and 2011 – the RAND researchers discovered that “on average, inmates who participated in correctional education programs had a 43% lower odds of recidivating than inmates who did not.”

They also found that “the odds of obtaining employment post-release among inmates who participated in correctional education (either academic or vocational/career and technical education programs) were 13% higher than the odds for those who did not.”

The study included the RAND Correctional Education Survey, a web-based survey of correctional education directors in all 50 states conducted in July 2013. Representatives of 46 out of the 50 states responded.

The survey revealed that:

  • Most states provide basic education, vocational educational/CTE programs and GED courses.
  • 32 states provide secondary and post-secondary education.
  • 24 states have a mandatory education participation requirement for those without a high school diploma or GED.

In spite of the critical need for computer skills to get work these days, many states’ correctional facilities are lacking in computer training:

  • 39 states offer desktop computers and 17 states laptops for use for instructional purposes.
  • 24 states offer Microsoft Office certification.
  • 26 states prevent inmate students from access to Internet technology.

After studying data and the educational situations in 46 states, the RAND Corp. came up with a series of recommendations that include:

  • Determine what works and what doesn’t work so that “policymakers and state correctional education directors can make informed trade-offs in budget discussions.”
  • Encourage governments and nonprofits to fund “evaluations of programs that illustrate different educational instructional models, that are trying innovative strategies to implement technology and leverage distance learning in the classroom, and are analyzing what lessons from the larger literature on adult education may be applied to correctional education.“
  • “Conduct new research on instructional quality in correctional education settings and on ways to leverage computer technology to enhance instruction.”
  • “Conduct a summit at the state and federal levels with private industry about what opportunities are available to formerly incarcerated individuals and what skills will be needed in the future.”

For more information about the nonprofit RAND Corp. and the research it does visit its website.

 

Back on Track LA receives Second Chance Act funding

Graphic courtesy Johnson County Justice Center, Iowa City, Iowa.

Graphic courtesy Johnson County Justice Center, Iowa City, Iowa.

The California Attorney General’s Office has been awarded nearly $750,000 in federal grant funds for Back on Track LA, a recidivism reduction pilot program. The program is one of only four in the nation to receive the funding, granted through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Second Chance Act.

Back on Track LA, being developed by the California Department of Justice, has been designed to deliver critical educational and comprehensive re-entry services pre- and post-release.

It will build on the L.A. Sheriff Department’s Education Based Incarceration Program by working in partnership with several educational institutions. One of these, the Five Keys Charter School – established in 2003 in San Francisco as the nation’s first charter school to operate within a county jail and now with a site in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department – will be geared towards those without a high-school diploma or GED.

Others, Los Angeles Mission College and Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in the Los Angeles Community College District and College of the Canyons in the Santa Anita Community College District, will provide higher education opportunities that include prerequisites for community college degrees, credentials and certificates.

Among other partners are the Ford Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation, California Community Foundation, California Wellness Foundation and the California Endowment.

Program participants – non-serious, non-violent and non-sexual crime offenders between 18 and 30 years old who are incarcerated in the LASD jail system – will be enrolled in the Back on Track LA pilot program for 24 to 30 months. Twelve to18 of these months will be while they are in custody and 12 months while out of custody.

“As the largest Probation Department in the nation, we are pleased to partner in the Back on Track LA program which will allow us to have further impact on the transition of inmates back in to the community by offering case management services directly inside the custody setting such as cognitive behavioral therapy and other mental health services,” said L.A.’s Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers when the announcement was made late last month. “Upon release, the probation team will also be able to assist in linking inmates to additional services in the community.”

The Second Chance Act, signed into law in 2008, provides funds to improve outcomes for those previously incarcerated as they reintegrate into their communities. Through a competitive grant process, this legislation authorizes federal grants to government and nonprofit agencies working to reduce recidivism by those returning to local communities from prison, jails and juvenile facilities.

Back on Track LA follows in the footsteps of a San Francisco program with the same name created in 2005 by former San Francisco District Attorney and current California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Developed for certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders, it reduced recidivism among its graduates to less than 10 percent over a two-year period.

In November 2013, Attorney General Harris also established the California Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry, an office designed to curb recidivism in the state by partnering with counties and district attorneys on best practices and policy initiatives.

The new division is tasked with the development of a statewide definition of recidivism, identifying grants to fund the creation and expansion of innovative anti-recidivism programs and using technology to facilitate more effective data analysis and recidivism metrics.