With the arrival of the holiday gift-giving season, the experts have some brightly wrapped recommendations about the new three “R's” — Reentry and Recidivism Reduction.
The Brookings Institute's Hamilton Project presented a national reentry proposal by Harvard scholar and reentry expert Bruce Western. Professor Western's proposal From Prison to Work: A Proposal for a National Prisoner Reentry Program is a 34-page article that he summarized into four main ideas:
- More programs in prison before release (basic education, national standards for education of inmates and reentry/discharge planning, Pell Grant restoration, technical training, etc.)
- A national transitional jobs program for those releasees who can't find work (a year of national service work where soft skills (such as work ethic and interpersonal workplace skills) and hard skills are learned and where mental health and substance abuse treatment plans are available and followed)
- Parole and probation reform that leads to less stringent sanctions for failure
- A reduction in collateral sanctions (restore Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and food stamp eligibility, restore Pell Grants and eliminate federal housing bans on felons)
On the heels of Dr. Western's proposal, Amy Solomon provided her most recent publication for the Urban Institute entitled Putting Public Safety First. The article included 13 evidence-based recommendations for parole and probation agencies about how they can meet the dual challenges of strengthening reentry efforts for individuals and communities and ensuring public safety. The 13 recommendations include such basics as defining acceptable recidivism and urging the adoption of ambitious goals for reentry efforts and other innovations such as individualizing reentry plans; concentrating resources on moderate- to high-risk parolees on the front end of the continuum of reentry; involving community, partners, and “homecomers” in the reentry and supervision plan; and employing graduated sanctions and incentives, treatment, and less surveillance to improve behavior and performance.
And further down on the gift list is The National H.I.R.E. Network's National Blueprint for Reentry of suggested model policies to promote the successful reentry of individuals with criminal records through employment and education. It contains 17 recommendations for improving the opportunities and chances of individuals returning, notably justice reinvestment strategies, higher education funding, and related hiring and employment ideas.
I hope that these carefully crafted gifts will have lasting impact in the new year and beyond!