By Lauren McGaughy
Backed by the White House and boosted by $4 million from the Charles Koch Foundation, a new way to introduce former inmates back into society will soon be tested in Dallas.
“Safe Streets and Second Chances,” a randomized prison re-entry pilot program, will measure how to reduce recidivism and lower costs by providing former offenders with individually tailored services to help keep them from falling back into a life of crime.
The study will roll out April 16 and last 15 months. About 1,100 former inmates exiting 40 prisons across four states, including Florida, Louisiana and Texas, will be enrolled. In Texas, the program will be tested in Hood and Hunt counties in addition to Dallas.
Some of the nation’s top conservative policymakers — including President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — as well as Kansas-based billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch, have backed the project, which builds on a decade of growing bipartisan support for improving America’s criminal justice system.
Doug Deason, a Dallas investor and GOP megadonor, hopes the study will yield a re-entry model that will one day be scalable in red and blue states, urban and rural areas across America. Improving the lives of formerly incarcerated people, he said, should be a goal on which everyone can agree.
“Over 95 percent of incarcerated people are going to come out and re-enter society. They’re going to come out and be our neighbors,” Deason told The Dallas Morning News. “The whole point in this huge cycle of recidivism is to prepare people who have made a mistake to re-enter society.”
Carrie Pettus-Davis, a criminal justice researcher and an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, will lead the program. Her methodology for the study is based on elevating the “five key ingredients to successful re-entry” for every ex-offender — healthy thinking patterns, meaningful work trajectories, effective coping strategies, positive social engagement and positive interpersonal relationships.