Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reentry Program: New Report Highlights Lessons Learned by Law Enforcement Agencies

New Report Highlights Lessons Learned by Law Enforcement Agencies in Establishing a
Successful Prisoner Reentry Program

The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center) released a new report today, Lessons Learned: Planning and Assessing a Law Enforcement Reentry Strategy. Created with support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the report highlights how four law enforcement agencies engaged in local-level reentry partnerships in order to reduce crime and increase public safety in their jurisdictions. These four “learning sites” featured in the report applied strategies outlined in the Planning and Assessing a Law Enforcement Reentry Strategy toolkit released by the CSG Justice Center and the COPS office in 2008, which focuses on ten key elements of creating a local reentry initiative.

In addition to today’s release of the Lessons Learned publication, an interactive assessment tool will be launched that is a companion to the original Planning and Assessing a Law Enforcement Reentry Strategy toolkit. This online tool allows local sites to assess and plan improvements to their current reentry practices. Housed on the CSG Justice Center website, this tool will be accessible to law enforcement, corrections staff, community corrections professionals, and faith- and community-based services providers who are interested in assessing their current reentry projects and building on law enforcement and community partnerships focused on reentry strategies.

“Law enforcement professionals are uniquely positioned to engage their community policing networks of service providers who can help address the needs of those individuals returning from prison or jail,” said COPS Office Acting Director Joshua Ederheimer. “We are pleased by the commitment of these law enforcement executives in the four jurisdictions represented in this report, as they have served as solid examples for the field how local law enforcement can be important partners in the community reentry strategies focused on reducing recidivism, and improving public safety.”

In an effort to expand the knowledge base for law enforcement agencies interested in starting or enhancing a reentry effort, the CSG Justice Center selected four agencies to serve as “learning sites” that would implement recommendations and proposed strategies outlined in the law enforcement reentry toolkit. The four agencies that were selected and whose progress is featured in this report include:
  • The Las Vegas (Nevada) Metropolitan Police Department,
  • The Metropolitan (Washington, D.C.) Police Department,
  • The Muskegon County (Michigan) Sheriff’s Department, and
  • The White Plains (New York) Police Department.
During the project, these agencies and their partners received on-site and off-site assistance in implementing selected core strategies outlined in the 2008 toolkit. The lessons learned from the technical assistance work and other information-gathering efforts provide valuable case studies for the field about common challenges and overcoming obstacles when implementing law enforcement reentry efforts.

Below is a brief summary of the four jurisdictions’ challenges and their progress highlighted in the new report is below.

Las Vegas (Nevada) Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) identified homelessness as a major issue in one of its largest police districts, and found that individuals in need of services were not being connected with existing resources available to them. In response, LVMPD staff designed and implemented a pilot reentry initiative that focuses on people booked into the county jail who have no home where they can return upon release. During the period of this project, LVMPD staff gathered and coordinated relevant stakeholders, implemented a screening process during booking at the jail, and arranged a collaborative reentry process that places program participants in housing and connects them to necessary services.

“I am proud that our department worked collaboratively to address the challenge of homelessness in a compassionate way through better coordination of services with community stakeholders. This approach has resulted in connecting those individuals in need with the right people, at the right time, and with the right services,” said LVMPD Sheriff Douglas C. Gillespie.

Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) coordinated with officers from CSOSA (Court Services & Offender Supervision Agency) to conduct home visits to people under CSOSA supervision. Building on this effort, specific police districts extended this practice to include people recently released from the metropolitan area correctional facilities and identified as most at risk of reoffending. In one particular district, MPD staff formalized an existing relationship with a local social service provider, and leveraged this relationship to connect this high-risk population to services.

Muskegon County (Michigan) Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) struggled with an overpopulated jail, much like many other communities throughout the country. A significant portion of the jail population comprises people incarcerated for their first offense. To decrease the jail population and increase public safety, MCSD staff worked on designing a reentry program for first-time offenders, which they hoped would limit the time served in the facility and connect them to community-based services upon release.

White Plains (New York) Police Department (WPPD) implemented the White Plains Reentry Initiative in 2004. This program focused on people leaving the Westchester County Penitentiary (WCP), and helped them reenter the White Plains community and develop an ongoing support system in the community. The initiative coordinated with a variety of partners—including professionals from the public school district, community mental health providers, and other service providers—who attended monthly panel meetings in WCP, meeting with people scheduled to be released in the next 30 days to the City of White Plains. At these sessions, the reentry partners provided overviews of each agency’s services and a WPPD officer discussed possible repercussions for reoffending. As a learning site, WPPD focused its efforts on improving communication among stakeholders through monthly case conference meetings and the development of a web-based database of reentry participants.

“I am proud that during my time as Police Commissioner, our department was able to launch this program, as it has been successful in helping individuals scheduled for release transition back into the community as well as ensuring they are able to contribute positively once they get out of prison,” said former White Plains Police Commissioner and CSG Justice Center Board Member Frank Straub.

“Lessons Learned: Planning and Assessing a Law Enforcement Reentry Strategycan be downloaded for free from the CSG Justice Center at Print copies are available through the COPS Office Response Center at 1-800-421-6770. 

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