Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘second chance act

Inspector General: DOJ Not Effectively Monitoring Reentry Programs

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The Department of Justice has distributed tens of millions of dollars to state and local prisoner reentry programs around the country in recent years, but has done a poor job of tracking whether those programs have been successful, according to a recently released audit from the DOJ’s Inspector General. Reviewing federal reentry grants made between 2002 and 2010, the audit found little evidence of DOJ monitoring or follow-up with grant recipients. Because the DOJ did not establish clear standards for data collection, it is difficult to know whether the programs it has funded have reduced recidivism rates. DOJ officials say they have already begun to implement some of the reforms called for by the audit and that future grants will be better monitored. The full report is available via Main Justice at the above link, or as a PDF from the DOJ here.

Federal funding for reentry programs is made under three umbrellas. The Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) was established in 2002 as a collaboration between several federal agencies, and has awarded over $100 million in grants. The DOJ’s Reentry Initiative was introduced in President Bush’s 2004 State of the Union address as “a four-year, $300 million” grants program “to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups.” This program awarded about $33 million in grants between 2006 and 2008. Finally, the Second Chance Act, which was signed into law in April 2008, also provides funding for prisoner reentry programs, though so far only about $11 million of SCA grants have been awarded.

“Kansas’ model parole program collapses with state budget cuts”

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That’s the unfortunate headline of this report from the Kansas City Star. By pouring resources in recent years into mental health care, job training, and community residential services for parolees, Kansas became a national model for reentry programming and achieved a 2% recidivism rate — something California, with its recidivism rate nearing 70%, would surely envy. (OK, it’s not that easy to directly compare recidivism rates across states since they may treat parole violators and record data differently, but I think it’s fair to assume that California’s rate is much, much higher than Kansas’s under any measure.)

As the article notes, when Congress passed the Second Chance Act in 2008, the idea was to provide states with block grants so that they could imitate Kansas; now, Kansas itself may have to start applying for grants. Gov. Mark Perkinson’s budget recommendations for the next fiscal year would reduce the allocation for reentry programs to just $5.3 million (from $12.6 million two years ago). These cuts are just part of a broader set of measures that could negatively impact the Kansas criminal justice system for years to come:

It is too early to know how program cuts, both inside and outside prison walls, may affect future recidivism rates, or even overall public safety, corrections officials say. But they already face a new penal landscape, as about $25 million has been chopped from the corrections budget since 2008.

Last year, four minimum-security units were shut down, many inmates were routed to tighter quarters, and treatment and education programs lost more than half their funding. …

Gone from most Kansas communities are the structured group-living arrangements that provided offenders a bed, counseling and supervision while they sought full-time work or fought off addictions.

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