- Report Published -
|Status Report on Offender Transitional and Re-entry Services - November 15, 2012|
|Secretary of Public Safety|
|Appropriation Act - Item 379 B. (Special Session I, 2012)|
|The Status Report on Offender Transitional and Re-entry Services has been prepared in compliance with Item 370, Paragraph B of the 2010 Appropriation Act (Chapter 874, 2010 Acts of Assembly), which requires the Secretary of Public Safety to provide a status report on actions taken to improve offender transitional and re-entry services, as provided in § 2.2-221.1 of the Code of Virginia. Information about the re-entry-related efforts of over 20 state agencies has been compiled in this status report.|
A system-wide approach to re-entry, such as Governor Robert F. McDonnell’s Re-entry Initiative in Virginia, has the potential to reduce recidivism and victimization. These criminal justice outcomes can result in enhanced public safety and savings associated with fewer offenders returning to the criminal justice system. Core re-entry targets for former offenders, such as obtaining and maintaining employment, education, stable housing, and prosocial family and community ties, are associated with this substantial and complex effort. As a result, the Commonwealth’s Re-entry Initiative, which facilitates the development of a statewide system for re-entry planning and service delivery, is Virginia’s primary strategy for making communities safer. Throughout his term, Governor Robert F. McDonnell has continually challenged all state agencies to work towards this mission of enhancing public safety by building and strengthening partnerships and engaging in collaborative and innovative efforts at the state and local level. Each year state agencies continue to rise to this challenge, working together to facilitate effective re-entry planning at every stage of the criminal justice process from sentencing to post-release.
State agencies have invested substantial time and effort in updating practices and implementing programs that promote positive re-entry outcomes. The Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) and Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), in cooperation with other stakeholders and agencies including the Virginia Department of Health, the Department of Veterans Services, and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, have identified correctional populations with unique challenges and needs. These populations include female offenders, identified gang members, and HIV-infected offenders, and veterans involved in the criminal justice system. These inter-agency partnerships have facilitated the development and implementation of strategies for addressing the re-entry needs of these populations. In addition to these efforts that promote equity in service delivery, other strategies that agencies have employed over the last year to promote re-entry include the following: implementing evidence-based programming and transitional services, increasing access to treatment and programs that reduce offenders’ risk of recidivism, improving the coordination and quality of service delivery, enhancing information sharing between agencies and re-entry stakeholders through the use of technology, collaboratively facilitating individualized release planning, and identifying and removing policy-gaps and other barriers to re-entry.
Service-level gaps and barriers still exist due to the limited availability of funding, public sentiment towards former offenders, restrictive policies, and crime barrier laws. However, collaboration, which is the cornerstone of the Governor’s Re-entry Initiative, has helped agencies minimize these obstacles by encouraging innovation, interagency problem-solving, and outreach efforts to identify and make efficient use of untapped or underutilized resources. The number of re-entry stakeholders has increased substantially over the years as local and state agencies and re-entry councils engage in community outreach. State agencies continue to work together alongside local community agencies and organizations including businesses, hospitals, colleges, courts, law enforcement agencies, faith-based groups, and non-profit organizations to strengthen re-entry assets. These innovative partnerships are central to the approaches taken by the Virginia Prisoner and Juvenile Offender Re-entry Council and the Virginia Community Re-entry Initiative, which provide a model of collaboration replicated throughout the Commonwealth. The Statewide Re-Entry Conference, Cross Systems Mapping Workshops, and inter-agency training efforts (e.g., the statewide crisis intervention team training) provide additional opportunities for community outreach, networking, and collaborative problem-solving. Other collaborative efforts have resulted in the development of programs, often supported by grant funding and community partners, that strive to achieve a continuity of care between incarceration and reintegration into the community. Some of these programs and initiatives spearheaded by the DOC and DJJ have resulted in additional adult and juvenile offenders being enrolled in academic and vocational programs, improved educational planning, and increased opportunities for offenders to receive job certifications and work experience prior to release. The Divisions of Education within these Departments have made substantial efforts within the past year to increase program capacity, seek out alternate funding sources, provide additional instruction, and make tuition more affordable for students. Other programs supported by partnerships between agencies have resulted in revisions to policies, procedures, and programming that help offenders secure forms of identification and apply for benefits prior to release. These efforts, in addition to the valuable transitional services provided by community corrections, social services, and local treatment and service providers, facilitate a coordinated system of statewide re-entry. A more detailed explanation of the programs and initiatives cited above, as well as new partnerships and efforts implemented within the last year, is provided in the body of the report.