Panel: Exploring Effective Strategies for Prisoner Reentry: Findings from Recent National Initiatives and Implications for Policy
(Crime and Drugs)

Saturday, November 8, 2014: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Santo Domingo (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Christian Geckeler, Social Policy Research Associates
Panel Chairs:  Erin Jacobs Valentine, MDRC
Discussants:  R. Marie Garcia, U.S. Department of Justice

Challenges and Strategies for Conducting Surveys of an Ex-Offender Population
Pam Loose, NORC at the U of Chicago, Carrie Markovitz, NORC at the University of Chicago and Ashley Hendrickson, NORC at U of Chicago

The number of inmates being released annually from U.S. prisons and jails increased fourfold over the past three decades. Adding to the challenge, those released from incarceration face daunting obstacles to successful reentry—about half lack a high school degree and many report problems with substance abuse and mental health or physical impairments. This populations is also disproportionately people of color. Not surprisingly given these challenges, rates of recidivism are high. Recent national statistics show that two-thirds of ex-prisoners are rearrested and about half are reincarcerated within three years of release. Reducing recidivism is therefore critical, both as a means of reducing corrections costs and as a strategy for addressing the interrelated problems of low-income families and vulnerable communities. In recognition of this need, the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Justice have funded several high-profile efforts that have endeavored to reduce recidivism through reentry services for those soon-to-be or recently released from prisons or jails. This panel, drawing from multiple evaluations and organizations, presents a detailed look at the operation and effectiveness of these reentry efforts. The programs include various service models, funding sources and organizations structures and types. Bringing the findings from these papers together in a single panel provides an opportunity for panelists and the audience to assess the efficacy of various reentry strategies and methods for learning about the value of these programs. The first paper in the panel describes findings from the cross-site evaluation of the Second Chance Act (SCA) Adult Reentry Courts. Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, these courts combine intensive judicial and community corrections oversight with rehabilitative services intended to assist with the overwhelming needs of individuals returning from incarceration. The presentation draws on implementation research and shares lessons learned about organizational partnerships and inter-agency collaboration and communication; enrollment, and participant attitudes toward reentry court staff. The second of the three papers describes findings from two ongoing, random assignment evaluations of national reentry programs: the U.S. Department of Labor’s Reintegration of Ex-Offenders (RExO) program and the Department of Justice’s SCA Adult Demonstration Grants. This presentation draws primarily on data collected during the implementation studies conducted for both evaluations, comparing similarities and differences between these two programs and drawing on common lessons learned across both sets of grantees. The presentation will also discuss the impact study designs for both evaluations and the implications of the implementation study findings for the impact analysis. The final paper explores strategies for locating formerly incarcerated individuals and engaging them in survey research. The work draws primarily upon the experiences of the team that conducted the survey research for the evaluations of the SCA Adult Demonstration Grant program, as well as other similar survey work with hard to locate populations. The discussant draws out the implications of each presentation’s findings for future research and policy, with special attention to the perspective of the U.S. Department of Justice.
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