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Reentry Courts: Looking Ahead -- A Conversation about Strategies for Offender Reintegration

NCJ Number
Robert V. Wolf
Date Published
April 2011
18 pages
This report summarizes the discussions of a focus group on the status of reentry courts as viewed by policymakers, court practitioners, parole and probation administrators, and researchers.
An area of immediate agreement among participants was that reentry courts continue to hold promise as a strategy for responding to the challenge of managing ex-offenders returning to communities. In discussing the rationale for a special court to deal with reentry issues, the focus group agreed that ex-offenders need a powerful and consistent intervention to help them change their criminal behavior, which requires the kind of structure that reentry courts provide. There was general agreement among participants that reentry courts should use validated instruments in screening and assessing offenders who are most likely to benefit from participations in a reentry court. Participants also addressed several themes related to the transition of inmates from prison to the community. A number of participants emphasize that using evidence-based practices is crucial to the success of reentry courts. Although participants agreed that reentry courts have been inspired by drug courts, they also agreed that reentry courts are different. Whereas drug courts are intended to treat effectively offenders whose criminal behavior is largely drug-related, reentry courts intend to keep ex-offenders from returning to prison after their release. What drug courts and reentry courts have in common is their use of incentives and sanctions to change behavior. Other issues addressed by the focus group were the development of support for reentry initiatives among various constituencies, statewide coordination of reentry courts, overcoming institutional divisions, funding, and the composition of the reentry court team.