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Reentry Court Initiative: Court-Based Strategies for Managing Released Prisoners

NCJ Number
Justice Research and Policy Volume: 6 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2004 Pages: 93-118
Date Published
26 pages

This article describes nine Reentry Court Initiative (RCI) programs, which were charged with developing strategies to improve the tracking and supervision of offenders upon their release and to provide the service necessary to help offenders reconnect with family and community.


The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) launched the RCI program in response to the growing need to effectively meet the supervision and services needs of the large numbers of released prisoners returning to their communities. Nine sites were identified as RCI sites and were encouraged to base their strategies for supporting prisoner reentry on the drug court model. This article presents descriptions of these nine pilot RCI sites, including information on program status, target populations, organization, operations, services provided, agencies involved, and barriers encountered. In order to inform the analysis, telephone interviews were conducted with key contacts from each site. Site visits were conducted at three sites and involved semi-structured interviews with stakeholders who included judges, program directors, supervision officers, case managers, and program participants. Diverse approaches were used in establishing the nine sites; the judicial branch maintained programmatic authority in five of the eight operational sites, while administrative law judges or parole boards served as the legal authority in the other three programs. Regular court appearances were a requirement of all RCI programs, although a specialized reentry court docket was not established at all sites. Comprehensive services were offered to program participants at the majority of sites, with case management provided through a case manager or the supervision officer. Barriers commonly experienced across many of the RCI sites included difficulties in securing employment and affordable housing for program participants. The main differences observed across the sites regarded the target population, key agencies involved, and the type of supervision and case management offered to participants. Overall, the RCI pilot sites have underscored the importance of collaborative planning and of leveraging existing resources in local communities. Future research may focus on the relative costs and benefits of programs that serve only a small number of participants. Tables, references

Date Published: January 1, 2004