COVID-19 Brings Majority of Essential Reentry Services to a Halt

April 22, 2020

A new survey from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center shows that essential reentry services that help people reintegrate into society from prison or jail are being halted due to COVID-19.

A survey of community-based service providers conducted this month showed that just 30 percent of 126 providers reported no changes in services since the rise of the pandemic. Meanwhile, significant numbers of programs—including in-reach services in jails and prisons, educational support in the community, and employment services—have been forced to stop amid the outbreak.

“The value of these reentry services can’t be overstated,” said Megan Quattlebaum, director of the CSG Justice Center. “They can mean the difference between finding an apartment and being homeless, securing an occupational license and being unemployed, and, frankly, success and failure. It’s in all of our best interests that we ensure the success of people returning from incarceration. Our federal, local, and state governments must come to their aid at such a challenging and complex time.”

Those service disruptions are coupled with financing challenges that are prompting a growing collection of tough decisions already being made by leaders of these operations. Survey results showed:

  • About 45 percent of respondents say they face challenges with maintaining cash flow.
  • Nearly half of those surveyed are concerned about their ability to keep their doors open.
  • Nearly one in five organizations report they have already laid-off workers.
  • An additional 9 percent of organizations expect layoffs in the future.
  • Nearly half of the providers polled are seeing an increase in requests for services.
  • More than 80 percent of respondents said they had increased their use of technology to serve their clients.
  • Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed reduced home visits or direct transportation to and from services.

Yet these adjustments are not leaving practitioners confident that people exiting prison or jail will receive the suite of services they need in the near future. Eighty percent of respondents said they’re either “very” or “extremely” concerned that returning citizens will continue to face reduced access to needed services over the next three months. Over the same period, those surveyed overwhelmingly ranked employment as the biggest need their clients will struggle to receive, followed by in-reach services in correctional facilities, and access to coronavirus testing.

Service providers who participated in the poll hailed from 35 states and serve people in a variety of rural, urban, and suburban areas across the country. Respondents represented a cross-section of entities, ranging from advocacy organizations to homeless service organizations, and provide a variety of services related to reentry, including case planning, housing, education, mental health, and more.

About the Author

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Public Affairs Manager, Communications and External Affairs
Sheridan Watson develops media relations, public affairs, and digital strategies to advance organization-wide initiatives. Prior to joining the CSG Justice Center, she served for more than 10 years as a spokeswoman and communications advisor for three members of Congress. Previously,
she managed a portfolio of policy issues for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and served in communications roles at the Archdiocese of Washington and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Sheridan earned her ABJ in public relations from the University of Georgia and her MA in legislative affairs from The George Washington University.
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