Building Second Chances: Tools for Local Reentry Coalitions

PARTS 1 & 2

This toolkit is designed for local city, county, and community leaders who want to play an active role in improving reentry policy, practice, and outcomes. Within, you will find user-friendly references to seminal publications, research findings, and noteworthy examples of the foundational knowledge needed to design new reentry strategies and reinvigorate existing ones.

Focus resources on the people with the greatest needs who are most likely to recidivate Icon of pdf document

You want to make sure you’re using your coalition’s limited resources in ways that will have the greatest positive impact. To determine recidivism risk, all individuals in the criminal justice system should be evaluated for their risk of recidivism and needs using a risk and needs assessment tool. This part of the toolkit will help your local reentry coalition apply the results of risk and needs assessment tools to focus resources—including programs, services, and supervision requirements—on the individuals who are most likely to recidivate.

The information and resources in this section include:

The Questions to Consider below will help you assess and implement the available risk and needs assessment data to focus your recidivism reduction efforts:

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Questions to Consider
Icon of magnifying glass observing a caution symbol all inside a circle Do corrections agencies in your community use risk and needs assessments to develop case plans for incarcerated people?
A person’s assessed risk of recidivism, and the factors that contribute to their risk, should guide pre-release programming and transition planning. Tailoring programming decisions to a person’s risk factors and documenting their progress enables corrections agencies to leverage the term of incarceration to reduce the risk of recidivism. Time in prison or jail is an opportunity for corrections agencies to engage people in services that can prepare them for success after release, including treatment for behavioral health needs and education programming.
Icon of a dialed meter aligned fully right inside a circle Do community supervision agencies tailor supervision based on risk level?
People on probation and parole represent a large proportion of the criminal justice population in many communities and therefore can have a significant impact on a given jurisdiction’s recidivism rate. Community supervision agencies can amplify their impact on recidivism by tailoring supervision intensity and requirements to assessed risk level and needs. Supervision officers should have the necessary training and resources to develop individualized case plans and carry them out successfully.
Icon of a bar and line data graph inside a circle What do your risk and needs assessment data tell you about the needs of your target population?
Ask your corrections and supervision agencies to prepare summaries of the risk and needs profile of your target population. How many people are assessed as high risk? What are the most common needs in your target population? How many people indicate a need for behavioral health treatment from screening tools? This risk and needs profile will be very useful as you begin to work through aligning resources in your community to meet these needs.
Icon of a flag-topped executive building inside a circle Do local reentry programs prioritize programming for people assessed as high risk?
Although reentry programs might be tempted to recruit participants based on their willingness to engage in programming, that is not the best way to reduce recidivism. Community-based reentry programs typically are best positioned to reduce recidivism if they partner with a corrections or community supervision agency for participant recruitment, using assessment results to guide recruitment and decision making.

This Example from the Field explains how Camden, New Jersey's department of corrections partnered with community-based service providers to conduct needs assessment to prioritize supports for those with mental health and substance abuse disorders:

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Example from the Field

Using Screening and Assessment to Tailor Interventions

The Camden County, New Jersey, department of corrections partnered with community-based service providers to develop a jail-based program with comprehensive pre- and post-release services and an integrated care approach for people with co-occurring mental illnesses and substance use disorders. These reentry supports include mental health and substance use treatment, employment and job readiness training, and assistance related to housing, health care, public benefits, food, clothing, and transportation.

Find out how (PDF) the partners determined the level and types of services that would best serve this population.

These Quick References will help you understand and implement risk and needs assessments, while preventing racial and gender bias in your analysis:

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Quick References

In Brief: Understanding Risk and Needs Assessment (2011)
This brief explores how risk and needs assessment tools can help officials to better identify people at a high risk of reoffending, while also pinpointing the types of supervision and services that are most likely to prevent future crime.

Three Things You Can Do to Prevent Bias in Risk Assessment (2016)
When used properly, risk assessments can be a powerful part of your approach to reducing recidivism; however, without careful attention to how this tool is designed and deployed, racial and gender bias can introduce inaccuracies. This piece presents practical tips for determining how the tool is performing and developing a plan to remediate any issues discovered.