‘Reentry Ready’ Plan Aims to Turn Returning Citizens into Good Neighbors

By Andrea Cipriano, The Crime Report

Photo by Elentir via Flickr

Photo by Elentir via Flickr

Brian Ferguson, director for the District of Columbia Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs, has a simple answer to anyone who wonders why ordinary Americans should care about programs aimed at helping the formerly incarcerated adjust to life after prison.

“For anyone who does not see the value in reentry programs, ask yourself, what kind of neighbors do we want returning citizens to be when they return home?” he says.

Ferguson’s comment came in the official announcement of an ambitious plan released Wednesday by the Washington DC-based Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, a non-profit policy organization.

The Reentry Ready plan was created by diverse set of 21 stakeholders who debated and discussed appropriate strategies for 15 months—including formerly incarcerated individuals.

Reentry Ready believes that transforming the justice system from a primarily punishment-based approach into one where the system ensures “incarcerated individuals return to society prepared to be productive” is what’s going to heal the communities the most.

It envisions what it calls a “warm handoff” from jail or prison to community-based resources so returning individuals have the support they need to complete their reentry plan.

Under the plan, before individuals are released, corrections officials are tasked with developing personalized future reintegration plans, “based on a person’s specific needs and challenges.”

Each plan will set in motion unique support for the individual’s health and employment needs, as well as housing opportunities and community connections that can serve them well after release.

Reentry Ready says that by leading with compassion, a solid foundation can be laid out from the start to ensure individuals feel confident to reenter society.

Supporters argue that successful reentry also makes it imperative to remove obstacles such as “excessive fines and fees, challenging conditions of release, and harsh penalties for minor violations” because it makes reintegration more difficult and potentially isolating.

The stakeholders focused on three key strategies:

  • holding criminal justice and related systems accountable for recidivism;

  • sharing effective strategies for re-entry systems; and

  • removing barriers that hinder continuing success for reintegrating individuals.

Need for Stable Environments

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people return home from jail or prison. But, many of these individuals don’t return to stable or healthy environments, leading them to commit crimes again.

A Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that “68 percent of state prisoners released in 2005 were rearrested within 3 years.”

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Olivia McDowellComment