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But They All Come Back: Rethinking Prisoner Reentry, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2000
10 pages
Publication Series

After examining the current status of efforts to manage the reentry of ex-inmates into society upon release from prison, this paper proposes a new model for reentry management.


Under current popular efforts to abolish parole, it has lost its effectiveness as reentry manager. At the same time, important innovations are occurring that suggest different opportunities and risks for managing reentry in new ways. The drug treatment continuum, for example, mixes treatment processes with criminal justice processes to achieve successful reentry by reducing drug use and recidivism. Recent policies on sex offenders, however, show how policy shifts and new legal doctrines can militate against successful reentry. Innovative programs that manage community supervision to achieve public safety show how a variety of criminal justice agencies can enforce the terms of reentry. Restorative justice programs are defining new roles for victims, families, and offenders, as well as for judges, police officers, and others in shaping the terms of reentry. Under the new reentry model proposed in this paper, the role of reentry management is assigned to the sentencing judge, whose duties would be expanded to create a "reentry court." At the time of sentencing, the judge would also convene the stakeholders who would be responsible for the offender's reentry. This judge-centered model borrows from the drug-court format. Both feature an ongoing central role for the judge, a "contract" drawn up between court and offender, discretion on the judge's part to impose graduated sanctions for various levels of failure to meet the conditions imposed, and the promise of the end of supervision as an occasion for ceremonial recognition. 23 notes

Date Published: May 1, 2000