Reentry can be defined as services and programs that assist an individual in their transition from incarceration back into the community. Reentry services are aimed at reducing recidivism and promoting public safety by providing a range of evidence-based resources to reentrants. These efforts are dynamic and all-encompassing; they include both the institution and the field side of corrections, as well as other state agencies and community partners. Reentry services include referrals to programs and case management based off their identified risks and needs.
The collateral consequences of incarceration are far-reaching and affect more than just reentrants. Individuals releasing from prison face many barriers including the stigma of having a criminal record, which can adversely affect each facet of the transitional process. It can be challenging to find housing, employment, and access to behavior health services with criminal convictions. Communities are impacted in many ways economically and socially. Ensuring reentrants are supported during their transitional period helps improve community well-being and public safety. To do this, we must look at reentry in a holistic manner by focusing on family structure, workforce development, eligibility programs, transportation and many other areas that affect individuals' daily living and interactions within the community.
ADOC views reentry efforts as a proactive, collaborative approach to supporting individuals transitioning out of corrections to help address their needs upon release and to ultimately lower their risk of recidivating, subsequently increasing public safety. Alaska's current recidivism rate is 67.08 percent; with more than 900 individuals releasing monthly, ADOC is continuing to seek outside guidance, support and innovative ideas surrounding reducing recidivism. Reentry is integrated and at the forefront of all efforts within ADOC. This includes screenings and assessments to understand individual needs and programming such as substance abuse, parenting, education and pre-release classes.
There are many factors that impact a reentrant's successful transition into the community. By focusing on the following key fundamentals, the Department of Corrections, community partners and the reentrant can take tangible steps to addressing these barriers and supporting individuals upon release:
- Stable housing
- Access to behavior health services
- Prosocial networks
Reentry planning starts upon remand for an individual. A risk/needs assessment (called an LSIR) is conducted within 30 days of an offender arriving at their designated institution. The LSIR focuses on eight identified criminogenic risk factors; anti-social attitudes, anti-social peers, anti-social personality, history of anti-social behavior, family/marital factors, lack of achievement in education/employment, lack of pro-social leisure activities and substance abuse. Results from the LSIR are the foundation for the Offender Management Plan (OMP) which is dynamic and utilized as an individual's case plan during the incarceration phase and their reentry plan upon release. The OMP is vital as it identifies the programming needs for individuals and is a roadmap to address risks prior to release and assist the reentrant during their transition out into the community. The OMP is updated at various points and can be streamlined from the institutions to the field and to the service providers working with the reentrant. This enables evidence-based, efficient, coordinated reintegration efforts.
SB 91 has impacted reentry in various ways, both directly and indirectly. SB 91 mandated reentry planning start 90 days prerelease with a written reentry plan that outlines housing and employment as well as services needed for the individual to transition successfully into the community. One of the mandated services is that ADOC must assist reentrants in obtaining a valid state ID and partner with community and state agencies including Department of Labor and Workforce Development. SB 91 also lifted restrictions on food stamps for persons convicted of drug felonies provided the individual is compliant with probation and/or treatment requirements
Funding from SB 91 has been utilized to expand services at the Partners Reentry Center in Anchorage, Alaska; this includes housing, employment assistance, bus passes, and peer groups amongst other things. Funding has also been utilized to expand reentry coalitions throughout the state and hire case managers in specific areas to pilot an in-reach case management program that coordinates with the correctional institutions and the field offices. Funding has also been utilized for housing vouchers and services that reentrants can apply for.
Reentry is a multi-faceted issue, therefore requiring an interdisciplinary support network from a wide range of departments who deal with the different areas of reentry. No agency alone can address all the needs of individuals during the reintegration process. DOC collaborates with many state agencies that are vital in developing effective strategies to reduce the risk of recidivism and promote the opportunity for successful reentry.
Strategies include expanding collaborative efforts to ensure a seamless transition plan is in place prerelease. This includes expansion of in-reach efforts with community partners, individualized case management, apprenticeship programs and certifications for workforce development and continued engagement with statewide reentry coalitions. DOC is also formalizing peer support within the facilities and in the community, expanding work-release and different transitional opportunities, as well as offering Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) options prerelease.
There is a wide range of community nonprofit organizations, state departments and community coalitions who collaborate to provide resources, programming, housing, employment assistance, referrals and case management for this specialized population.