Implementing Reentry Programming in Correctional Facilities

Stefan F. LoBuglio, Suffolk County Sheriff's Department
Anne Morrison Piehl, Harvard University

In light of the large number of inmates released from correctional facilities, the functional deficits of those released, and the sizeable potential social gains from successful reintegration, many criminal justice and social service entities have developed interest in supporting inmate reentry to the community. We consider the conceptual and practical issues associated with introducing into correctional institutions substantial programming designed to reduce recidivism and promote reintegration into the community. Some of the difficult issues pertain to the management of the correctional facility, some pertain to the legal environment, and some pertain to shared authority (or lack thereof) with other agencies, such as parole boards. Managerial issues are often exacerbated in institutions were lengths of stay are short. For example, security classification can be an impediment to programming, due to both institutional policy and legal restrictions on movement. Also, unpredictable release dates can cause scheduling problems for programs designed to be provided immediately preceding release. Furthermore, The inmate population is likely to have a variety of release statuses due to the terms of their sentences, other criminal cases, and other legal status (e.g., subject to deportation). As a result, some inmates may be under the authority of other agencies following release, and these agencies may or may not have reentry efforts themselves. To illustrate the relative importance of these concerns, we analyze flow data from the Suffolk County House of Corrections, a 2000-bed medium-security facility which incarcerates convicted offenders who receive sentences of two and one-half years in length or less. Finally, we discuss challenges to conducting research on the efficacy of reentry programs within the context of a functioning correctional institution.

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Updated 05/20/2006