Federal Grantees Gather to Promote Safe Communities

Matt Schwarzfeld, mschwarzfeld@csg.org, cell: 914- 309-9007
Martha Plotkin, mplotkin@csg.org, cell: 202.577.9344
February 23, 2011

For Immediate Release

Federal Grantees Gather to Promote Safe Communities and Successful Prisoner Reentry

Washington, DC—Senior officials from the Department of Justice, reentry experts, formerly incarcerated individuals, victims, and representatives of programs receiving federal funding through the Second Chance Act (Public Law 110-199) came together today for a three-day conference, convened by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, to share strategies that increase success rates for people released from prisons, jails, and juvenile correctional facilities.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that more than 725,000 people were released from state prisons in 2009 alone (the most recently published statistics). Half of these individuals are expected to be reincarcerated within three years. One of the fastest growing categories of prison admissions consists of people who are already under some form of community supervision.

With support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice, this second annual national conference for Second Chance Act grantees has been convened to help frontline professionals learn from experts and peers. The conference, attended by more than 600 reentry practitioners and experts, will highlight best practices and promising approaches that help make a person’s transition from a correctional facility to the community safe and successful.

“Nearly everyone in prison and jail will someday return to the community, and it is critical that we recognize and prepare for this reality,” said BJA Acting Director James H. Burch, II. “The justice professionals invited to this conference are on the cutting edge of our justice system’s most significant challenge—to increase public safety, strengthen communities, and reduce costs by ensuring that those released from secure confinement do not reoffend and have every opportunity to succeed in the community.”

The U.S. Department of Justice continues to make reentry—and collaboration among reentry partners—a high priority. Attorney General Eric Holder recently convened a cabinet-level Reentry Council, with the Secretaries of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, and the Interior; as well as the heads of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Social Security Administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the White House Domestic Policy Council, and the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance also oversees the grant programs that provide technical assistance, practical resources, and direct support for individuals and agencies committed to the safe and effective reintegration of people leaving prisons and jails to their communities.

The reentry conference is designed to build the knowledge base of what works to reduce crime and help returning individuals remain contributing members of neighborhoods and families. Information exchanges will help grantees make the most of the federal investment in their programs by highlighting accountability issues and key practices. Among the topics that will be addressed are properly assessing an individual’s risk for committing future crimes, designing data-driven programs, and effectively allocating limited resources for people returning from prisons and jails. Special attention is paid to sharing strategies that meet the unique needs of youth returning to schools and families after detention in a secure facility in an effort to interrupt the cycle of crime and incarceration.

“With states facing intense budget cuts, we simply cannot afford to invest in the status quo, in which people cycle in and out of prisons and jails without positive effect,” said CSG Justice Center board member Michael Lawlor, Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning at the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management. “The Second Chance Act reflects the commitment of leaders in Congress and the Department of Justice to foster new thinking in local, state, and tribal governments about how to break this cycle and get people back on their feet. This conference provides the ideal forum for these ideas to be heard by the front-line practitioners who will make a difference in our communities.”

The National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) provides education, training, and technical assistance to states, tribes, territories, local governments, service providers, nonprofit organizations, and corrections institutions working on prisoner reentry. The NRRC is coordinated by the CSG Justice Center, with support from BJA. For more information, visit http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org. For more about the CSG Justice Center, see http://www.justicecenter.csg.org.

The NRRC was established by the Second Chance Act, which was signed into law on April 9, 2008. The Act was designed to improve outcomes for people returning to communities from prisons and jails. This first-of-its-kind legislation authorizes federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victims support, and other services that can help reduce recidivism. For more information about the Act, see http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/about/second-chance-act.

The NRRC’s work also is guided by the Justice Center’s key project partners: the Urban Institute, Association of State Correctional Administrators, American Probation and Parole Association, and Shay Bilchik, research professor/center director, Georgetown University Public Policy Institute. Additional guidance is provided by advisory committees that include representatives of nearly 100 leading nonprofit organizations and service providers in the reentry field.

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