Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can assist unemployed workers and help prevent violence. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Easing the transition back into the community: Adult reentry programs provide individuals with support services leading up to and after their release from prison or jail. The aim of reentry programs is to ease the transition of formerly incarcerated individuals back into their community and lower recidivism rates.

  • Preparing individuals for release: Reentry programs begin working with incarcerated individuals well in advance (e.g., 18 months) of their release date. At this stage, programs typically focus on ensuring participants have the behavioral, psychological, and vocational skills needed to be successful upon release. Services that may be offered include substance use treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, workforce training, and more.

  • Supporting individuals after release: Once an individual has been released from jail or prison, reentry programs generally continue providing support services. These services may be focused on addressing barriers individuals face to accessing healthcare or securing housing and employment. Programs may also continue providing skill building and therapeutic services.

  • Varied models and focuses: Reentry programs vary in their target populations, with some programs more narrowly focused on addressing specific barriers to successful reentry (e.g., substance use), while others address a range of barriers. As such, programs also vary in their approach to treatment. While some programs emphasize individual therapy or case management, others use a group format. Regardless of their focus or format, reentry programs typically result from collaboration between corrections departments, law enforcement agencies, court systems, social service agencies, and related organizations.

Cost per Participant
Not available

Multiple studies with rigorous designs provide some evidence for reentry programs as a strategy for reducing recidivism. However, results were inconsistent across studies.

  • Screen and assess needs: Once incarcerated, individuals should be screened to assess their needs and risk of recidivism. This may include goal-setting, vocational planning, screening for mental and physical health issues, and more. Reentry programs should use this information to develop an individualized reentry plan for each participant.

  • Create and maintain relationships: Formerly incarcerated individuals who have a strong social support network and existing connections to community-based organizations may be less likely to reoffend. As such, reentry programs should assist incarcerated individuals with establishing and maintaining relationships with their family, friends, and other sources of support (e.g., religious communities).

  • Teach skills that address participants’ trauma: Typically, incarcerated individuals have experienced significant trauma. Focusing on teaching skills, such as through approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy, that help participants cope with negative thoughts or patterns of behavior, can help them succeed in multiple domains after release (e.g., employment, relationship building, sustaining housing).

  • Hire staff who can build relationships: Particularly for programs focused on delivering therapeutic treatments, hiring staff with the ability to build rapport with participants is vital. Prospective staff who have experience working with incarcerated individuals, understand and have connections to the neighborhoods that participants will return to, or share lived experiences with participants may be most effective.

  • Create continuity in care before and after release: When an incarcerated person is released, they typically face multiple barriers to reintegration. Reentry programs should promote a smooth transition back into the community by offering continuity of care before and after release. This can be achieved by allowing participants to retain their same case worker after release, providing access to halfway houses or other supervised release programs, among other methods.