The re-entry process for released jail inmates “presents unique opportunities for intervention,” say two reports issued today. Nine million Americans are jailed each year, many more than once. Eighty-one percent of inmates are behind bars for less than a month. In an average three-week period, local jails have contact with as many people as state and federal prisons do in an entire year. The nation's 3,365 jails can do more to prevent crime by partnering with local organizations to improve the odds of inmates' successful return to society, say new reports from the Urban Institute, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the Montgomery County, Md., Department of Correction and Rehabilitation.
One report examines concrete reentry steps and profiles 42 reentry programs. Among recommendations: Allow community health providers to come into the jail to treat chronically ill patients; permit workforce development agencies to offer employment services to inmates, help them obtain driver's licenses and Social Security cards, and prepare them for work; connect inmates with formerly incarcerated people who have turned their lives around; and encourage family visits with inmates. A companion report, “The Jail Administrators' Toolkit for Reentry,” is a handbook on such issues as assessment of inmates' needs, identifying community resources, educating the public, and measuring success. The report and the toolkit are available at www.urban.org. They were funded by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance. A congressional forum on “The Impact of Reentry from Local Jails” is being hosted today by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS).