The reentry court initiative: Court-based strategies for managing released prisoners
In response to the growing need to effectively manage the large numbers of released prisoners returning into the community, the Office of Justice Programs launched the Reentry Court Initiative (RCI). Nine sites were identified and charged with developing strategies to improve the tracking and supervision of offenders upon release and providing the services necessary to help offenders reconnect with their families and the community. The current article describes the RCI programs. Telephone interviews were conducted with key site contacts from each site. Site visits were conducted to three sites, at which semistructured interviews were held with 28 key stakeholders, including judges, program directors, supervision officers, case managers, and program participants. The sites employed diverse approaches in establishing their programs, with the judicial branch maintaining programmatic authority in five of the eight operational sites, and administrative law judges and/or parole boards serving as the legal authority in the remaining three. All RCI programs required regular court appearances, although not all established a specialized reentry court docket. The majority of sites appeared to offer comprehensive services to their program participants, with case management provided either through a specialized case manager or the supervision officer. Several barriers were common across the RCI sites, particularly the difficulties in obtaining employment, and appropriate, affordable housing for program participants.