Reentry programs are essential for ensuring the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals released from jails and prisons into their communities.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. releases over 7 million people from jail and more than 600,000 people from prison each year. These individuals face significant challenges reintegrating into society, such as finding employment, housing, and health care. Without adequate support, many of these individuals reoffend and return to prison, leading to an increase in recidivism rates.
Reentry programs provide a range of services, including job training, housing assistance, health care and substance abuse treatment, among others. The effectiveness of reentry programs in reducing recidivism rates continues to be explored with some promising preliminary results. The National Institute of Justice explains, “[w]e don’t have a strong understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and there’s a pressing need for additional research to help us better understand the dynamic process of reentry.”
Funding for reentry programs has increased in the past few years, indicating the recognition of the importance of such programs in reducing recidivism rates. States have become the testing ground for innovative solutions which have shown preliminary successes.
Exploring Different Funding Models for Reentry Programs
Funding sources for reentry programs vary widely, and it is important to consider the benefits and challenges of each of them.
One source of funding for reentry programs is federal grants, which relies primarily on competitive grant applications. For example, the Second Chance Act was originally passed by Congress in 2008, and reauthorized several times, to provide funding to states for reentry programs. Most recently, the Bureau of Justice Assistance--responsible for distribution of second chance funds—is looking to fund two organizations to design and administer a competitive incubator initiative for community- and faith-based reentry providers. The maximum award is $4 million per applicant. While federal funding can provide a significant boost to state-level reentry programs, it is subject to political priorities and may not always be consistent or reliable.
In New York, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision offers a variety of programs, including vocational training, educational programs and substance abuse treatment. The state also partners with community organizations to provide additional services, such as mentoring and job placement assistance. New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision reports that individuals who participate in vocational or academic programs were 13% more likely to obtain employment after release.
In Oregon, the Washington County Community Corrections Department (WCCC) received federal funding to provide offenders with substance-free transitional housing. The WCCC aimed to pair supervision with substance-free housing to enhance offenders’ abilities to commit to substance-free and crime-free lives. The WCCC offers a service-rich environment to those it supervises, with access to substance-free transitional housing as just one of many available supports. Following a study of the program, researchers concluded the program was a cost-effective use of public funds.
Following an examination of four other reentry programs throughout Oregon, The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission reported the programs generated a 33% decrease in all new felony and misdemeanor arrests when compared to similar offenders matched on risk. When broken down, the programs decreased the property crime arrest rate by 38%.
Looking at individuals receiving new charges, the programs showed a 27% drop for all charges collectively and, divided by charge, there was a 41% drop in misdemeanor charges and a 33% drop in felony charges. The study also noted that the program was cost-effective with each dollar invested in these offender reentry programs generating $6.73 in benefits such as avoided criminal justice costs to taxpayers and reduced victimization costs.
Additionally, program staff at the Multnomah Reentry Enhancement Coordination Program report that 70% of their participants are out of government/intermediary housing within 90 days after release, further saving the system and opening up beds in halfway homes and other transitional housing programs. The four pilot programs were originally funded through a federal grant, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.
Reentry efforts have continued through a plethora of funding sources, including state funds. For example, the Northern Oregon Regional Correction Facility funds a three-phase reentry program through state grants and county justice reinvestment initiatives.
In Ohio, the Office of Reentry within the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) is critical in connecting individuals with communities, programs, and services. Funding can be requested from the ODRC by community partners in order to implement approved reentry programs.
Other agencies also aid in Ohio’s reentry process. The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Bureau of Criminal Justice has expanded community capacity to continue treatment services and provide access to recovery supports for people with mental illness and substance use disorders when they return to the community from Ohio’s adult prison system.
In addition to state level-resources, Ohio’s counties also play a role in connecting community partners with individuals reentering society. For example, Montgomery County’s Office of Reentry works with a variety of community stakeholders to provide programming and services to the men and women who return to Montgomery County from incarceration. With many partners comes many funding sources. Much of the funds for reentry programming in Ohio are financed through a combination of state appropriations, fines and fees, and private donations.