Reentry is a widespread term used to refer to concerns related to the transition of offenders from prison and other institutions to community supervision.[i] Crime prevention practitioners further expands the concept of reentry to include the use of programs targeted at promoting the effective reintegration of offenders back to communities upon release from institutions, such as community-based detention, rehabilitation and recovery programs, prison and jail. Reentry programming, which often involves a comprehensive case management approach, is intended to assist offenders in acquiring the life skills needed to succeed in the community and become law-abiding citizens. A variety of programs are used to assist offenders in the reentry process, including pre-release programs, drug rehabilitation, vocational training, and work programs.
Nearly 650,000[ii] people are released from state and federal prison yearly and arrive on the doorsteps of communities nationwide. Far greater numbers reenter communities from local jails, and for many offenders and defendants, this may occur multiple times in a year. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) study of 15 states, more than two-thirds of state prisoners released from incarceration were re-arrested and more than half returned to prison within three years of their release. Over the past three decades, the correctional population has increased from approximately 1.8 million in 1980 to more than 7.2 million in 2009, with the majority (70 percent) under the supervision of community corrections (probation or parole). The total national-, federal-, and state-level direct expenditures for corrections (including community corrections) were $74 billion in 2007.
While these numbers are astounding, law enforcement professionals, government officials, and communities around the nation are committed to developing programs and strategies to reduce the recidivism amongst non-violent offenders by addressing these barriers—education/skills, medical care/substance abuse treatment, employment, housing, and family reunification. A recent response to these efforts is the passage of the Second Chance Act by Congress, which will restore funding to continue to develop and implement initiatives central to offenders’ personal and skill development. With all of these entities working together, we can be successful in addressing the reentry challenges that non-violent offenders have and help them to make a successful transition back into society.