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A Nationwide Assessment of Jail Reentry Policies and Practices: A Two-Tiered Study of the Field

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $599,986)

RTI International (RTI) and its partner, the American Jail Association (AJA), propose the first systematic, nationwide assessment of jail policies and practices focused solely on reentry and community engagement. The proposed 42-month study will provide the first nationally representative understanding of the reentry policies and practices used by jails nationwide to assist people leaving jail incarceration, whether pretrial or sentenced, and produce foundational knowledge for the field and direction for future research—filling a critical knowledge gap as little research exists on the role the nation’s nearly 3,000 jails play in reentry, how this role may differ across jails, or their work with community partners to facilitate reintegration.

To achieve these objectives, the study will employ a two-tiered research design to produce actionable information throughout the study to guide jail reentry efforts and research. Under Tier 1, the study will conduct a national assessment of jail reentry policies and practices featuring a national web-based jail survey to systematically capture the nature and scope of jail reentry efforts, informed by a literature review and listening sessions with jail leaders and staff to identify pressing reentry issues. Tier 1 findings will yield a detailed portrait of the jail reentry landscape, including the strategies used nationwide and how jails engage community partners to position people exiting jails for successful reentry, which will be distributed as a brief report early in Year 2. Under Tier 2, the study team will use Tier 1 survey results to select five jails with innovative or holistic reentry strategies and strong community partnerships for intensive case studies that will entail streamlined process evaluations and evaluability assessments. Case study data collection will feature site visits to observe reentry operations, interview core stakeholders (jail leaders, program staff, and community partners), and conduct focus groups with people exiting jail. These activities will document each site’s reentry strategies, jail–community collaborations, implementation experiences and lessons, and perceived impacts and assess evaluability for future research by also examining program and criminal legal system data to identify measurable outputs and capacity for outcome evaluation. Case study reports will highlight promising jail reentry strategies and offer clear direction for future research. A multi-pronged dissemination strategy implemented with AJA will ensure study findings reach key audiences with tailored products. An Advisory Board of jail leaders and researchers, reentry providers, and people who have experienced jail incarceration will guide the study’s work throughout the project period. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 20, 2023