NIJ Director Nancy La Vigne Discusses Evidence-Based Strategies for Successful Reentry
NIJ Director Nancy La Vigne highlights the importance of evidence-based strategies for successful reentry. This strategy emphasizes the need for tailored and holistic support that starts during confinement and continues after release, with a focus on family involvement, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and community supervision.
Successful re-entry should be guided by research evidence, fortunately we have a strong body of knowledge to work with.
I'm Nancy LaVine, director of the National Institute of Justice, and I've spent the better part of my professional life conducting studies of the reintegration process and evaluations of programs and policies designed to support the successful transition of people from correctional confinement back home to their families and communities.
NIJ has sponsored much more research than I have done in this space. And together with the findings from hundreds of scholars throughout the U.S and the world, we've landed on five concrete evidence-informed strategies.
First programs and services should be tailored to the unique needs and risk factors of each individual. In other words, one size does not fit all. Tailoring is best accomplished through a thorough assessment of risks and needs at intake, an ongoing measurement of these factors which can change over time throughout the term of confinement. Importantly programs, treatment services, and case management should all align with these identified risks and needs. This tailoring also applies to programs specific to the population being served. For example, the literature is definitive that gender responsive programs are more effective for women than programs that are designed generically to serve both men and women.
Second, support services should be holistic in nature. Addressing one need at the expense of others will not yield the intended impact. Take for example someone exiting prison in need of employment. If you only help them secure a job but you don't attend to their need for stable housing or their underlying substance use disorder, the prospects of their keeping that job are extremely thin.
Third family and support systems matter deeply. Family is often an overlooked and underutilized resource in supporting successful reintegration. Facilitating family contact behind bars through streamlined visitation processes, family friendly waiting rooms and visiting areas, and easy and affordable access to phone and video conferencing can help keep those support systems strong and may even enhance them. And working with the family to set expectations can help them best support the transition of their loved one back home.
Fourth, if there's one specific type of intervention that the literature has found to be effective in supporting successful re-entry above all others, it's programs that include a cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT component. CBT can help individuals recognize past and current negative patterns of behaviors and decision making, helping them restore self-esteem and imparting tools and strategies to make more positive life choices.
Fifth, and last, community supervision works best when it combines both surveillance and support functions. Now surveillance is the traditional role of the supervision officer that involves ensuring that people comply with terms of supervision and remain crime free. But the support role, particularly when the officer is trained in and applies a coaching methodology, holds tremendous promise. Importantly coaching should focus not just on a person's risk and needs but also on their assets like their support networks and their talent skills and abilities.
Looking ahead NIJ continues to support research on what makes for successful re-entry. We're interested in identifying new measures of success beyond traditional recidivism metrics or supporting evaluations of programs that transform prison environments into humane and supportive communities that promote self-betterment. And we're interested in applications of technologies that can facilitate supportive community supervision and access to programs and services on the outside.
Re-entry isn't a moment in time it's a complex process that should start during confinement and continue over the months following release, ensuring that tailored and holistic supports are offered through a variety of touch points and modalities. Applying these evidence-based practices can go a long way in supporting healthier and safer individuals, families, and communities.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.