With the U.S. emerging as the world’s leader in incarceration with approximately 2.2 million people residing in prisons and jails (see Trends in U.S. Corrections) and an additional 4.5 million under community supervision (see Total Population in U.S. Adult Correctional Systems by Correctional Status), there is a lot of focus on finding the most effective and efficient correctional reentry strategies and services for all populations, including men and women, minority populations, youth, and persons with mental and behavioral disorders.
And, there is a big concern about the proportion of these people with either a mental illness or an addiction disorder. Roughly 20% of inmates in jails and 15% of inmates in state prisons are now estimated to have a serious mental illness (see Serious Mental Illness Prevalence in Jails and Prisons); and about 1 in 7 prisoners met the criteria for serious psychological distress (see Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates, 2011-12). Another half of prison and jail inmates meet the definition for substance abuse or dependence (see Incarceration, Substance Abuse, and Addiction).
Not only does these create challenges for jails and prisons, it also creates challenges upon reentry. Reentry, as defined by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is a broad term which refers to services related to the transition of offenders from prison to community supervision (see Reentry Trends in The U.S.). Those services encompass a variety of different programs for individuals released from state or federal prisons including housing, mental and behavioral health counseling, career preparation and employment assistance, and case management. The goals of reentry services range from specific population-focused goals like reducing the barriers to successful reentry and achieving optimal outcomes (e.g., attaining a stable job and housing, supporting their children and families) to more broad goals like reducing recidivism rates and saving money.
Over the past year, we’ve reported on some interesting new developments in reentry programs. These new programs fall in a few categories—employment, incarceration reduction, supportive housing and community supports, gender specific programming,
In June, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $2 million investment in a two-year pilot for a jail-based job center (JBJC) at the Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) for women in Lynwood (see Los Angeles Supervisors Fund Two-Year Lynwood Jail Pilot Program To Prepare Women For Outside Careers). The goal of the program is to provide 200 women at CRDF with the resources, guidance, and referrals they will need post-release, to help them integrate back into the community.
In June, Nevada passed a bill that includes provisions to address behavioral health needs and reduce recidivism (see Nevada Passes Justice Reinvestment Bill To Address Behavioral Health Needs & Reduce Recidivism). The bill is designed to avert an estimated 63% of projected growth in the prison population over the next decade and save $543 million by providing interventions and services to people with behavioral health needs. It also seeks to better align sentence lengths with the severity of lower-level, nonviolent offenses, and incorporates best practices into community supervision.
Supportive housing and community supports
New York released a request for proposals (RFP) seeking supportive housing services for adults with SMI who are reentering the community (see New York Seeks Scattered Site Supportive Housing Services for Adults With Serious Mental Illness Reentering the Community From Prison). Also, a relatively recent county wide initiative in Los Angeles County now provides services for newly discharged offenders who have cognitive conditions such as mental illness or dementia with a release plan, a 14-day supply of medication, and connections to services and community-based resources (see Los Angeles County Agrees To Provide Discharge Services For All Offenders With Cognitive Conditions).
Illinois also joined in on the evidence-based programming, where two laws were passed in 2018 requiring gender-specific programming to provide evidence-based, gender-responsive programs and training, case management and community supervision, and trauma-informed practices for female prisoners (see Illinois House Bill 1479 Gender-Responsive, Trauma-Informed Prison Programming). California followed suit with a recent RFP announcement seeking housing, sustenance, and gender-responsive programming for women in community transitional reentry programs (see California Seeks Custody to Community Transitional Reentry Program Services).
These new developments can act as a solution to improve the access and quality of care to the prison population both while incarcerated, and while reentering into the community—but only if provider organizations are prepared to provide services for the strategic shift. A big part of meeting that challenge will be to assess the new service requirements and use proven practices and guidelines to make the most informed decisions. This needs to become a standard for health and human services provider organizations; corrections and reentry programs are not exceptions to this.
For example, the National Reentry Resource Center provides tools and resources to assist in developing programs that are backed by research like Collaborative Comprehensive Case Plans, where agencies involved in the individual’s case management team and recovery processes work together to assist in reducing the risk for recidivism by providing information on their behavioral health, criminogenic risk, and psychosocial assessments (see Addressing Criminogenic Risk and Behavioral Health Needs). The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance has also collaborated with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation to create evidence-based guidelines that promote the identification of individuals in prison with behavioral health disorders, and practices that promote their successful transition back into the community (see Guidelines For The Successful Transition Of People With Behavioral Health Disorders From Jail And Prison).
For more on the innovations and trends in reentry programs, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Circle Library:
- What’s Happening In Reentry Contracting?
- The Community Reentry Mess – Who’s Contracting?
- The Community Reentry Mess – What Works?
- Correctional Reentry Strategies More Important With Growing Plans for Early Release
- The Remake Of The Corrections/Health Connection
- The Face Of The Criminal Justice System Is Increasingly Female
- A New Opportunity To Serve Justice-Involved Consumers
- A “New” Justice Involved Population
- ‘Smart Justice’
- Are Medicaid Managed Care Plans Ready For The Justice-Involved Consumer?
For more on developing innovative programming, join me on September 9 for the executive summit, Innovative Treatment Programs For Value-Based Partnerships: The OPEN MINDS Clinical Innovation Executive Summit. We will feature an exploration of successful innovative treatment programs for consumers with complex support needs, with guest speakers Ken Carr, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS; Kathleen Mahieu, Lead Business Consultant for Strategy & Innovation, Aetna Behavioral Health; Andrew F. Vitullo, Vice President of Development, Kolmac Outpatient Recovery; and R. Marie Wenzel, PEACE Program Director, Horizon House, Inc.