Prisoner Reentry And Community Policing - Urban Institute

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M E E T I N GS U M M A R YPrisoner Reentry andCommunity Policing:Strategies for EnhancingPublic SafetyReentry Roundtable MeetingThe Urban InstituteWashington, DCMay 12-13, 2004Prepared in partnership with the Office of Community OrientedPolicing Services, U.S. Department of Justiceresearch for safer communitiesURBAN INSTITUTEJustice Policy Center

URBAN INSTITUTEJustice Policy Center2100 M Street NWWashington, DC 20037 2005 Urban InstituteThis project was supported by cooperative agreement # 2003-HS-WX-K044 by the Office of CommunityOriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of theauthors(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the United States Department of Justice,The Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

AcknowledgmentsWe would like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of several colleagues andinstitutions in supporting this meeting of the Reentry Roundtable on Prisoner Reentry andCommunity Policing: Strategies for Enhancing Public Safety. Early in the life of thisproject we convened a planning meeting to seek the advice of law enforcementprofessionals. We are grateful for the contributions of that meeting from representativesof the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Police Foundation, National SheriffsAssociation, and John Hopkins University Police Executive Leadership Program. At theUrban Institute, we benefited from the assistance of Meagan Funches, Dionne Davis,Demelza Baer, and Erica Lagerson. We are especially grateful for substantive andfinancial support provided by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services(COPS). Carl Peed, Director of the COPS Office, and his staff, Pamela Cammarata andKatherine Mc Quay, were enthusiastic and resourceful colleagues who believed that thismeeting of the Roundtable would provide valuable guidance to police agencies andcommunities around the country.KAREN BECKMANKELLY DEDEL JOHNSONAMY SOLOMONJEREMY TRAVIS

History of the Reentry RoundtableFour years ago, the Urban Institute launched a major research and policy developmentinitiative on the issue of prisoner reentry, with a broad substantive agenda thatencompasses criminal justice policy as well as the impact of incarceration and reentry onchildren, families, former prisoners, communities, and civil society. (A prospectus ofUrban Institute’s reentry activities can be found at One of the keycomponents of this initiative has been the creation of the Reentry Roundtable—a groupof prominent academics, practitioners, community leaders, policymakers, advocates, andformer prisoners that convenes about twice a year to push the envelope of research andpractice. Additionally, about a hundred individuals (including practitioners, researchers,foundation officers, and community members) are invited to observe meetings of theRoundtable, and have been impressed with the breadth and stature of people who havejoined the Roundtable to become part of a larger national network. The mission of theRoundtable is to develop new thinking about the issue of prisoner reentry, broadlydefined.The first meeting of the Roundtable was held in the fall of 2000, with the purpose ofexploring the many dimensions of the reentry issue. The Urban Institute commissioneddiscussion papers by leading academics examining the state of knowledge on this topicfrom a variety of perspectives—health, substance abuse, family, gender, race,employment, community capacity, and state criminal justice policies. Those papers (andtwo others on mental health and victims’ perspectives) were published in a special issueof Crime and Delinquency (Volume 47, Issue 3, 2001). They also provided the basis forthe Urban Institute monograph entitled “From Prison to Home: The Dimensions andConsequences of Prisoner Reentry.”Following that meeting, the Urban Institute designed a multistate longitudinal study onprisoner reentry, entitled “Returning Home.” At the second meeting of the Roundtable inMarch 2001, the meeting focused attention on that design, with special attention tounderstanding the impact of reentry on family and community. The Urban Institute hascompleted the pilot study of Returning Home in Maryland and are implementing the fullstudy in Illinois, Ohio, and Texas.The third session of the Roundtable, held in March 2002, focused on the role of theinstitutions of civil society in creating barriers and bridges to the successful reintegrationof record numbers of former prisoners. The papers from that meeting have beenpublished on the Urban Institute’s website ( The fourth meeting,held in December 2002, examined the nexus between prisoner reentry and health. Thosepapers were published in a special issue of the Journal of Correctional Health Care(Volume 10, Issue 3, Fall 2003). The fifth meeting examined the employment dimensionof prisoner reentry. A monograph report based on the findings of that Roundtable isavailable though the Urban Institute website. The sixth meeting of the ReentryRoundtable, entitled “The Youth Dimensions of Prisoner Reentry: Youth Developmentand the Impacts of Incarceration and Reentry,” was held in San Francisco at the end ofMay 2003. The papers from this session were published in a special issue of YouthViolence and Juvenile Justice (Volume 2, Issue 1, 2004). The seventh meeting of the

Reentry Roundtable, entitled “Housing, Homelessness, and Prisoner Reentry,” was heldin October 2003. A monograph report based on the findings of that Roundtable will beavailable in Fall 2004.The eighth Reentry Roundtable was held in May 2004. With funding support from theDepartment of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing, this meeting of theRoundtable addressed the nexus between reentry and community policing in the contextof public safety. What follows is a synopsis of the two-day discussion among academics,practitioners, service providers, and community leaders convened by the Urban Institute.These individuals were brought together to share their perspectives on the role of lawenforcement in tackling the issue of prisoner reentry. This document reconstructs thediscussion in the chronological order in which it unfolded, including highlights ofpresentations by the authors of commissioned papers and the discussions that flowedfrom them. In order to promote the free flow of ideas, it was decided that individuals’names would not be attributed to comments given during the Roundtable discussion.The Urban Institute is in the process of producing a monograph report of this meetingthat will be available in Spring 2005. Full-text versions of the commissioned workingpapers are available at http://www.urban.orgMay 2004 Reentry Roundtable Meeting ParticipantsAlfred Blumstein, Carnegie Mellon UniversityPatrick Bradley, Massachusetts ExecutiveOffice of Public SafetyJim Bueermann (Co-chair), Redlands, CaliforniaPolice DepartmentEdward Davis III, Lowell, MassachusettsPolice DepartmentWalter Dickey, University of WisconsinSchool of LawJohn Fitzgerald, Hampden CountyMassachusetts Jail and House of CorrectionEllen Halbert, Travis County Texas, Office ofthe District AttorneyMichael Jacobson, John Jay Collegeof Criminal JusticeGary Johnson, Texas Department ofCriminal JusticeDavid Kennedy, Kennedy School of Government,Harvard UniversitySusan Herman, National Center for Victimsof CrimeGary Hinzman, Sixth Judicial District Departmentof Correctional ServicesMartin Horn, New York Department of Correctionand ProbationEdmund McGarrell, Michigan State UniversityAlan Mobley, University of California-IrvineBrenda Palms-Barber, North Lawndale (Chicago)Employment NetworkCarl Peed, Office of Community OrientedPolicing Services, U.S. Department of JusticeCharles See, Lutheran Metropolitan MinistryAssociationJean Johnson, Public AgendaMichael Smith, University of WisconsinSchool of LawRobert Johnson, Anoka County Minnesota,County Attorney’s OfficeFaye Taxman, Bureau of GovernmentalResearch, University of MarylandPaul Joyce, Massachusetts Executive Office ofPublic SafetyJeremy Travis (Co-chair), The Urban InstituteGeorge Kelling, Rutgers University - NewarkReverend Steven Tucker, New CommandmentBaptist Church, Washington, D.C.

ContentsSection I. Welcome and Meeting Overview.1Section II. Presentations and Discussion .3Who Is Leaving Prison?.3What Public Safety Risk Do Returning Prisoners Pose?.9Reentry and Safety from a Community Perspective.13Brick Walls Facing Returning Offenders .16The Roles of the Police in the Offender Reentry Process .20Placing Reentry in the Context of Sentencing Policy.24Promoting Public Safety: A Problem-Oriented Approach to Reentry.27Turning “Weeds” into “Seeds”.31The Revolving Door: Exploring Public Attitudes Towards Prisoner Reentry .34Section III. Next Steps for Research and Policy .38Police and the Community.38Police Organization .39Police and Corrections.40Technical Violations.40Supporting Families.41Agency Roles.41Concluding Remarks .42

Section I.Welcome and Meeting OverviewCo-chair: Jeremy Travis, The Urban InstituteThe aim of this Roundtable was to generate discussion about theintersection between reentry and community policing and how publicsafety can be advanced. The meeting was premised on the idea that abetter understanding of these issues will help stimulate the creativity ofthe research, practice, and policy communities to think differentlyabout the nexus between these social challenges.The Urban Institute commissioned four discussion papers to help setthe conceptual framework for this Roundtable. Paper topics include theways that police and the community can work together, ways thatpolice and parole can work together, ways that parole and prisons canwork together, and ways that police and former prisoners can worktogether. Most sessions began with short opening statements fromauthors summarizing their papers’ key points, while other sessionsbegan with presentations on public safety topics. After eachpresentation, the discussion was opened to Roundtable participants.The involvement of presenters, participants, and observersrepresenting a wide range of fields and views enabled the group toexamine relevant challenges from a number of perspectives. The twoday Roundtable provided critical opportunities for participants toidentify and discuss new approaches—testable ideas that mightsignificantly advance policy and practice with regard to public safety,policing, and the welfare of people returning to the communities fromprison.Reentry andcommunitypolicing is anatural fitbecause of lawenforcement’sdesire to assistthe community,problem solve,and partner withother agencies.Carl Peed, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services,U.S. Department of Justice (COPS)The involvement of the COPS Office in reentry is fairly recent.However, it is a natural fit because of law enforcement’s desire toassist the community, problem solve, and partner with other agencies.Further, the COPS Office recognizes that small numbers of offenderscommit a large proportion of crime, and knows that about 60 percentof ex-offenders recidivate. Attending to prisoner reentry provides asignificant opportunity to impact public safety.1

Co-chair: Jim Bueermann, Redlands Police DepartmentPrisoner reentry is one of the most compelling issues facing Americanlaw enforcement, yet the police haven’t been connected to the issuebecause prisoner reentry has not been considered part of policing’spurview. Getting involved in this issue gives law enforcement newopportunities to connect to the community and to take communitypolicing to a new level. This is a significant opportunity because of thepotential impact on victims of crime, children of offenders, andneighborhoods and places. However, law enforcement is not familiarwith this arena and we are not yet conversant about the issues. Overthis two-day meeting, the goal is to develop answers to the followingquestions: What roles can and does law enforcement play in this issue?What tools are needed? What cultural changes need to occur withinpolice departments to facilitate their participation in reentry efforts?Getting involved inreentry gives lawenforcement newopportunities toconnect to thecommunity andtake communitypolicing to a newlevel.2

Section II.Presentations and DiscussionReentry Roundtable PresentationWHO IS LEAVING PRISON?Nancy La Vigne, The Urban InstituteAbstract: This presentation provided a national overview of the issueof prisoner reentry, highlighting the characteristics and challenges ofpeople who exit prison and return to their communities. Nationaltrends on incarceration and release policies are described, followedby more specific information on the demographics, criminal andsubstance abuse histories, and housing and employment challenges ofthis population. The impact of prisoner reentry on communities isexplored through an examination of the geographic concentrations ofreleased prisoners and the characteristics of the communities to whichthey return.Characteristics of Reentry PopulationThere has been a four-fold increase in the number of prisonersreturning to communities since 1977, now reaching an estimated630,000 per year.An estimated630,000 individualsare released fromprison each year.In some states, there has been an increasing proportion of prisonersbeing released without any form of post prison supervision. Forexample, in Massachusetts, 58 percent of prisoners are releasedwithout any supervision. By contrast, in California, only 3 percentof prisoners are released unconditionally. These practices have asignificant impact on the number of prisoners who are returned toprison for technical violations of their conditions of supervision.Not surprisingly, states in which the majority of prisoners arereleased to supervision have higher proportions of prisonadmissions coming from parole violations.3

Eighty-eight percent of returning prisoners are male (notably, theproportion of females has increased over time), 55 percent arewhite, 44 percent are African American, and 21 percent areHispanic. The median age is 34 years old, and the medianeducation level is 11th grade.Seventy-five percent have previous admissions to probation orsome form of incarceration.Substance Use ChallengesOver two-thirds of all prisoners have histories of substance use,and about one-third have served time for drug sales or possession.(Sales and possession are hard to disentangle using available data;this is an important, yet difficult, research question to answer).Patterns of drug use vary significantly at the local level. Forexample, 40 percent of prisoners in Baltimore used heroin dailyprior to incarceration, while in Chicago, 22 percent used cocainedaily. These local-level nuances need to be explored moreexplicitly.Although in-custody treatment has been demonstrated to beeffective, access to treatment is generally quite limited.Health ChallengesThe prison population has higher rates of chronic medicalproblems and infectious diseases than the general population,including asthma, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, andtuberculosis. Mental health disorders are also prevalent.The challenges ofthose returningto societyfrom prison aremultifaceted—suchas substance abuse,health, family,employment,and return tocrime.Those released from prison often have limited access to health careand to their required medications once they return to thecommunity. For example, in Maryland, one-third of prisoners onmedication for health or mental health disorders were unsure ifthey would be able to obtain their medication after returning to thecommunity.Family ChallengesFamily relationships are among the most important, yet leaststudied, factors affecting reentry. Families are a source of bothtangible and emotional support, and these relationships may help toprevent both relapse and recidivism. Just prior to release, prisonershave high expectations about what their families will provide.4

In Maryland and Illinois, if anything, family support has beenfound to be greater than what prisoners anticipated prior to release.However, family relationships are not always easy. Child supportand regaining child custody are significant reunificationchallenges. In addition, many ex-prisoners have extensive familialhistories of incarceration and substance abuse, which cannegatively influence attempts to successfully reintegrate.Employment ChallengesAbout two-thirds of prisoners were employed just prior toadmission. While employment often translates into lowerrecidivism rates, many are unemployed after release. In-prison jobreadiness and work release programs are helpful but have limitedavailability.There are also significant deficits in employability. In Maryland,for example, 45 percent of returning prisoners had been fired atleast once. There is also the reluctance of employers to hire formerprisoners.Available, accessible work is limited. There is a “spatialmismatch” between the communities in which former prisonerslive and the communities in which available jobs are located.Transportation is a significant challenge.Returningprisoners clusterwithin majormetropolitancounties and in afew major cities.RecidivismOver two-thirds of prisoners are rearrested within three years oftheir release, and about half return to prison for new crimes ortechnical violations. It is clear that some returning prisonerscontribute to crime in the community, but further study is neededto determine the exact share of prisoners who reoffend and thelevel of crime for which they are responsible.Geographic Concentration of Returning Prisoners—Place MattersReturning prisoners cluster within major metropolitan counties andin a few major cities. For example, in Illinois, 53 percent of allprisoners are released to Chicago. In Maryland, 59 percent of allprisoners are released to Baltimore. The communities receiving thehighest proportion of prisoners are the least well-equipped toabsorb them—these communities have higher proportions offamilies living below the federal poverty level, unemployedpeople, and female-headed households.5

Using mapping to identify the concentrations of returning prisonerswithin a given geographical area provides a sense of the magnitudeof the challenges faced by specific communities. For example, inIllinois in 2001, 62 percent of all prisoners were returned to CookCounty. No other county received more than 3 percent of releasedprisoners. Fifty-three percent returned to the city of Chicago, and34 percent returned to only six neighborhoods in

of prisoner reentry. A monograph report based on the findings of that Roundtable is available though the Urban Institute website. The sixth meeting of the Reentry Roundtable, entitled “The Youth Dimensions of Prisoner Reentry: Youth Development and the Impacts of Incarceration and Reentry,” was held in San Francisco at the end of May 2003.

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