I never imagined my struggles as an ex-offender would one day be used as a way to adopt Best Practices in the calling of offering re-entry services to a disenfranchised populous of individuals. I never imagined I would be before a room of professionals speaking on this topic. If God could use anything, let it be me is my prayer this afternoon.
The adoption of these five elements will increase the chances of successful inmate reentry:
• Standardized Objective Assessment,
• Appropriate Classification
• Community Service
Research on Reentry and Correctional Programming Based on literature reviews of reentry research and correctional programming the key components of effective reentry initiatives include the following components: Standardized Assessment. Research indicates that standardized assessment can help with the referral of inmates to appropriate programming (Serin 2005). Assessments that identify inmates’ needs help administrators understand which types of programs to offer inmates and therefore promote the chances of more successful reentry to the community.
Work Release/Job Training. Several studies have looked at the benefits of work release and job training for inmates. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy found that job training, vocational education programs, and work release produce modest but statistically significant reductions in recidivism (Aos, Miller, and Drake 2006).1 In a descriptive study of reentry participants in Baltimore, Visher, LaVigne and Travis (2004) of The Urban Institute cite how inmates who took part in work-release jobs, received job training, and worked as a condition of supervision are more likely to have a job post release. Educational Programming. Research shows that educational programming has demonstrated lasting positive effects on inmates. Research finds if classes improve inmates reading and language skills, they are less likely to be rearrested after release (Piehl 2002). A report by the Reentry Policy Council recommends that correctional facilities teach basic skills and literacy to inmates who are cognitively capable of learning. The Council states that it should be a goal to enable most inmates to read at a minimum of an eighth grade level, and correctional facilities should make GED programs available to interested inmates (Reentry Policy Council 2006). The Washington State Institute for Public Policy states that inmates involved in education programs have reduced rates of recidivism (Aos, et al. 2006).
Community Component. The Reentry Policy Council advocates that correctional staff allow for and encourage inmates to participate in community service. Community service that helps inmates build or improve productive skills is ideal (Reentry Policy Council 2006). Continuity of Programming Pre- and Post-Release. Research points to the important link between programs offered during incarceration and follow-up programs recommended for inmates after release. According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) article, initial studies of The Delaware Key/Crest Program3 state that the link between therapeutic programs during incarceration and follow-up programs in the community may be the most important piece of that program (Mathias 1995). In an article on correctional treatment where the principles of correctional programs are discussed, Gaes, Flanagan, Motiuk, and Stewart (1999) talk about the importance good coordination between correctional programs and aftercare programs. Researcher Involvement. As part of their guiding principles of effective correctional programming, Gaes, et al. (1999) highlight researcher involvement with program development and implementation. Researchers can play a valuable role at translating national best practices for the specific reentry needs of a local jurisdiction
Key Principles of Correctional Programs A literature review of research articles identified principles of effective programs. Based on a review of research articles, Gaes, et al. identified eight key principles of correctional programs. The following is a brief summary of those principles. 1. Criminogenic Needs. Programs should address such things as pro-criminal attitudes, pro-criminal associates, impulsivity, weak socialization, below average verbal intelligence, risk seeking, weak problem solving and self control skills, early onset of antisocial behavior, poor parental practices, and deficits in educational, vocational, and employment skills. 2. Multimodal Programs. Ideally, programs should treat all the criminogenic deficits of an inmate. Inmates often have multiple deficits and therefore are at an increased risk of recidivism. Addressing only one or two deficits for inmates with many deficits reduces a program’s effectiveness. 3. Responsivity. Program administrators should consider the learning styles of inmates and match those with the teaching styles of the staff. 4. Risk Differentiation. Programs should target the higher-risk inmates, who have the most criminogenic needs because they are more likely to benefit from programs than lowerrisk inmates. 5. Skills Oriented and Cognitive-Behavioral Treatments. Programs should teach social learning principles and skills that help individuals resist anti-social behavior. 6. Implementation and Continuity of Care. There should be coordination between correctional programs and aftercare programs. Programs that started in a correctional facility will be more effective if they are continued after release. 7. Dosage. Although there is limited research that specifically addresses the issue of dosage (i.e., exactly how much programming is the right amount of programming), it is generally agreed that programs should be of sufficient duration. 8. Researcher Involvement. When researchers are involved in program development, implementation, and evaluation, programs have been found to be more effective. Examples of how researchers can be beneficial include designing programs that are based in best practices, enhancing the integrity of implementation, tracking progress to help make mid-course corrections, and evaluating whether the programming is working as intended. Targeting dynamic risk factors should be the focus of programming that attempts to follow best practices.