Obama-Era Reentry Program Curtailed Recidivism: Study

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An initiative created under the Obama administration to provide reentry support for the formerly incarcerated has sharply curtailed recidivism among the formerly incarcerated, according to a study of the program.

Under the Project New Opportunity (PNO), created under President Obama’s Clemency Initiative and the United States Sentencing Commission’s (USSC) 2014 reduction in drug sentencing guidelines, , there were no known incidents or reports of rearrests, violations of the terms of probation supervision, or incarceration, said the study released by the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA).

Many of the formerly incarcerated individuals in the program spent decades in prison before being released.

The key elements of PNO’s model are a staffing plan that relies on formerly incarcerated people as Reentry Consultants, and an “inside/outside” connection that introduces incarcerated people to their Reentry Consultant six months prior to their release and continues after release.

PNO is based on research both about the challenges that accompany the transition from prison to community and the role that formerly incarcerated people can play in helping newly released people make this transition.

“Imprisonment leaves scars including post-traumatic stress responses, a lack of familiarity with the routines of daily life, and forms of culture shock as one confronts technological and other changes that have occurred during one’s time in prison,” wrote study author Marsha Weissman, the Senior Policy Fellow of the CCA.

“These adjustment issues contribute to recidivism, which is highest within the first six months of release,” she continued.

The PNO was initiated under the Obama administration and through the retroactive application of the guideline reforms, about 6,000 individuals were eligible to be released on November 1, 2016.

Another 1,928 were released though the Clemency Initiative.

Yet, except for probation supervision and Bureau of Prison (BOP) halfway houses, there were no reentry supports available to these individuals, many of whom had served decades in prison, Weissman said.

Thus, there was a need for a new model that could provide reentry support for people released under these criminal justice reform efforts.

PNO was able to follow up with participants of the program through the Reentry Consultants and/or participants themselves.

“This suggests that PNO was able to help people stabilize and avoid new encounters with the criminal justice system in the immediate aftermath of release,” Weissman concluded.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

This summary was prepared by TCR senior staff writer Megan Hadley. Readers’ comments are welcome.

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