In addition to recognizing individual needs, programs can also tailor services based on common needs among population groups. Correctional and reentry interventions are more e ffective at reducing recidivism when they account for characteristics such as the age, race, ethnicity, gender, or geographic location of a target population.27

Youth and Young Adults

Research on adolescent development shows that youth are more likely than adults to engage in risky behaviors, are heavily swayed by peer influences, and fail to account for the long-term consequences of their decisions. Additionally, youth in the juvenile justice system often have significant needs that span multiple service systems, such as child welfare, education, mental health, and substance use.28 Young adults ages 18 to 24 also have distinct developmental needs and may be involved in either the juvenile or adult criminal justice system. Because they account for a disproportionately large share of arrests, violent crimes, and recidivism, the young adult population is an important focus for both systems.29

To reduce reoffending and improve other outcomes—such as prospects for earning a high school diploma or finding steady employment—programs aimed at youth and young adults in the justice system should employ a coordinated approach across service systems, adopt evidence-based practices and programs shown to yield positive results for this population, and tailor strategies to reflect developmental needs.

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) is working to lower the risk of reoffending for young adults ages 18 to 24 at a moderate to high risk of recidivism—as determined by the Ohio Risk Assessment System, a validated tool—by piloting a program that addresses the distinct needs of this population. The Justice Involved Young Adults Initiative (JIYAI) is aimed at young adults on probation and parole in four Ohio counties and employs supervision officers who are specially trained in a curriculum focused on young adults. The curriculum includes training in young adult brain development, trauma-informed care, cognitive programming to develop problem-solving and social skills, motivational interviewing, and cognitive behavioral interventions for people seeking employment.

Through this pilot, ODRC staff have been collecting data on the effectiveness of using text messages, pre-release prison in-reach, enhanced community contact, and other supervision techniques. The ODRC’s research partner, Betagov, will assist with data analysis, problem assessment, strategy development, monitoring, and performance evaluation. Three of the pilot counties are in a partnership with the Center for Employment Opportunities, where young adults are referred for cognitive behavioral intervention, job coaching, and job placement. The fourth county is incorporating a mentorship program for the JIYAI participants.

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has worked to expand reentry services and initiate comprehensive, sustainable reforms across the state to help ensure the successful reentry of youth in their care. To help achieve these goals, the DJJ established a formal youth reentry task force, which has grown to include more than 70 member organizations and more than 100 individual members representing a diverse group of youth-serving agencies and community stakeholders. The task force is divided into subgroups based on key areas that impact recidivism and positive youth outcomes, such as family and living arrangements, parenthood, peer groups, behavioral health and substance addiction, vocational training and employment, and education.

The task force has also engaged other government agencies to advance its goal of improving reentry outcomes, including by working to restore Medicaid benefits for youth leaving incarceration within a few days of release, rather than the standard two to three months. The DJJ built a map and database of community resources with more than 1,500 entries, which enables youth and their families to search for reentry services listed by county, zip code, and service type. DJJ Office of Reentry Services staff can also use the map to find services to incorporate into transition plans for youth in their care.

Jennifer DeWeese, whose son was in DJJ custody for a month for stealing a neighbor’s car, was invited to serve on the task force as a parent representative. Based on her experience with the DJJ, DeWeese recommends that other states follow Georgia’s example and involve parents of youth who are incarcerated in efforts to improve the juvenile justice system. “So many government entities are perceived to be insular and not willing to accept information from the outside,” DeWeese said. “I found DJJ [to be] just the opposite.”

Most of us have not experienced having a child in detention … [But DeWeese is] a subject-matter expert on that … She has devoted her time to helping us think through some of the things that we need to do with our youth in custody … Her statements add a lot of value to the discussion.
B. Keith Jones,
a task force leader and director of the Georgia DJJ’s Office of Reentry Services


As a small proportion of the total correctional population, women often find that correctional and reentry programs are not created and delivered with their needs in mind. Yet women face a distinct set of issues, including high rates of substance addiction, mental illness, victimization, and trauma,30 and women in jails are the fastest growing correctional population.31 According to a BJS study of people in prisons and jails, women were more likely than men to have had a history or shown symptoms of a mental illness.32 Women accounted for 25 percent of the people on probation and 13 percent of people on parole at the end of 2015,33 and women returning to their communities after incarceration may struggle to find employment, reach financial stability, and maintain recovery, often while working to retain custody of children.

Reentry programs can focus specifically on assisting women by addressing mental illnesses and substance addictions; reinforcing parenting skills and assisting with family reunification; and offering mentoring, recovery coaches, and other supportive networks as women transition back into their communities from prison or jail.

Santa Maria Hostel (Houston, Texas)

The Path to Recovery program, part of the multi-site Santa Maria Hostel, provides substance addiction treatment and supportive housing to women in Harris County, Texas, who are returning to the community after incarceration and have been assessed as having a moderate to high risk of recidivism. The program assigns peer mentors to women who are pregnant or parenting minor children and have histories of trauma and co-occurring mental illnesses and substance addictions. Participants receive pre-release mentoring for three months along with transitional services and post-release mentoring for six months based on individual need.

Working closely with the county sheriff’s office, the local drug court, and other local programs, agencies, and criminal justice professionals, Santa Maria Hostel places Path to Recovery participants in one of its specialized residential facilities for a period of up to a year, often with their young children. These facilities provide comprehensive programming that includes educational and vocational services, life skills training, and more. When women leave the Santa Maria facilities, recovery coaches continue to provide the net of support they need to maintain their recovery and stay in their community.

Between 2013 AND 2015, Santa Maria Hostel reported that 82 percent of Path to Recovery program participants had no record of reoffending of any kind.34

Seattle, Washington, Police Department

The Seattle Police Department (SPD), in partnership with the IF Project initiative, operates a gender-responsive reentry program with comprehensive services for women returning to King County, Washington, from the Washington Corrections Center for Women. The program aims to develop personalized reentry plans for women, including assistance with accessing substance addiction treatment and employment services. Named for its founding question—“if there was something someone could have said or done that would have changed the path that led you here, what would it have been?”—the IF Project is a collaboration among law enforcement, community members, and people who are currently and formerly incarcerated that encourages participants to share firsthand experiences of incarceration through writing and video diaries.

SPD and the IF Project have also partnered to create a women’s reentry center as an outgrowth of the IF Project based on its core principles of using self-inventory to build awareness and facilitate healing. The goal of the reentry center is to support women as they transition back into the community through writing workshops as well as a mentoring program and a health and wellness curriculum aimed at reducing recidivism.

Being in a women’s prison is very different than being in a men’s prison. When they reenter society, many of these women are being taken out of a supportive family living environment . . . We want the reentry center to be a place where they can come back together and say, ‘We all have something in common; we’ve all been to prison.’ That peer-to-peer connection starts empowering them and lets them help each other create a safe place where they can have the conversations they can’t have with the outside world.
SPD Detective Kim Bogucki

Tribal Communities

Reentering tribal communities from prison or jail presents unique challenges because of the ways in which local, state, federal, and tribal criminal justice and social service systems intersect, which is different for each tribal government and state. Tribal communities are often underserved and have high levels of need, with high rates of victimization35 and unemployment36 and scarce housing.37 Additionally, even though they represent a small proportion of people in jails, from 1999 to 2014 the number of American Indians and Alaska Natives incarcerated in county and city jails increased by nearly 90 percent.38 Despite this, culturally competent services are rarely available in correctional facilities.39

Jurisdictions and service systems can work together to build strong relationships and provide evidence-based, culturally competent services to help support Native Americans who are returning from prison or jail to tribal lands or other communities.

Alaska Native Justice Center

The Alaska Native Justice Center (ANJC)—a tribal nonprofit organization—serves Alaska Native people in the Anchorage area by working to integrate culturally relevant practices into its reentry programs and services. Before release, participants receive individualized case management and transition planning services, employment and workforce assistance, and housing assistance. Case management continues after release, and other services include Moral Reconation Therapy; transitional mentoring and peer-to-peer support groups; treatment for co-occurring mental illnesses and substance addictions; and vocational training.

To further their work, ANJC collaborated closely with the Alaska Department of Corrections to create a cultural competency training program for corrections officers. As a member of the Alaska Native System of Care, a group of Native nonprofit organizations that works together to align resources, ANJC also connects with local health care providers who specialize in working with the Alaska Native population to facilitate treatment services that are culturally aware and responsive.

In ANJC’S 2018 fiscal year, all reentry programming participants completed 40 hours of volunteer service that they felt would contribute to their community.40

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (Montana)

The Flathead Reservation Reentry Program (FRRP) serves members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes or other federally recognized tribes who are returning to the Flathead Reservation in Montana from a correctional facility and have co-occurring mental illnesses and substance addictions. In conjunction with the Tribal Defenders Office, FRRP provides comprehensive pre-release services, including mental illness treatment, case management, and legal advocacy and aid. Behavioral health considerations are integrated into the sentencing, pre-release, and post-release case management and reentry processes. Further, program staff are incorporating two scales designed to measure historical trauma among Native peoples—the Historical Loss Scale and the Historical Loss Associated Symptoms Scale—into their risk and needs assessments.

Program graduates emphasize the significance of the help they have received through FRRP—from guidance in securing financial aid for college, to help with forms during hospital stays—in their continued reentry success, and staff work to build a sense of trust and community so that participants have a greater chance of complying with the requirements of community supervision and thereby lowering their overall risk of recidivism.

The people that work here really do care about our clients. But the other thing that’s really important to know is the resilience of our clients … They talk about the help that they got from us, but I know that they [have overcome] incredible barriers … probably barriers I wouldn’t have been able to get over. So there’s a lot to be said for them and their character.
Ann Miller,
managing attorney, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Defenders Office

Rural Jurisdictions

In rural jurisdictions, typical reentry obstacles are compounded by fewer resources and limited public transportation. In a survey of adult community supervision agency representatives in rural areas, 91 percent of respondents said that trains were not available in their area, while 59 percent said that buses were not accessible to the people they serve. According to 78 percent of respondents, stable housing is extremely difficult to secure.41 Access to employment is another significant hurdle, whether due to there being fewer businesses in remote areas or a decline in industries that have traditionally been found in rural counties.42 Many rural counties must partner with nearby counties to share resources and service providers, and people returning to rural areas after incarceration are often forced to drive for hours to receive reentry services. The struggle to reach programming can impact people’s ability to comply with the required conditions of community supervision or, for those who have substance addictions or mental illnesses, distance from treatment can impact recovery.

To address these challenges, reentry programs in rural communities can partner with local businesses to enhance job opportunities and coordinate with schools to help people earn credentials while they are still incarcerated. In addition, programs can offer assistance with transportation, as well as tailor services to offer online accessibility when possible.

Franklin County, Tennessee, Sheriff's Department

The Middle Tennessee Rural Reentry (MTRR) Program works to help people in the Franklin County jail find employment after release by offering pre-release training programs and creating close partnerships with local businesses. Because the closest technical school is approximately 50 miles away from the jail (making transporting people to the site cost-prohibitive) and technical colleges in the area have 6- to 12-month waiting lists for enrollment, access to vocational programming is limited. To counter these hurdles, MTRR facilitates job opportunities for participants by connecting them with local employers, such as a nearby car-part manufacturing plant. The program also provides comprehensive services to increase participants’ chances of success after incarceration. Services include Moral Reconation Therapy; job-readiness training, including interviewing tips and how to prepare a résumé; parenting classes; substance addiction and mental illness treatment; and classes where participants earn industry and community college certificates.

Of the 54 MTRR participants who entered the program and were released from jail between January 2016 and June 2017, approximately 80 percent were not rearrested during that period.43

The reentry program saved my life. When I was in jail, they put me on the right path and they got me focused on why I wanted to change. They kept me focused on getting back to my kids and my family.
Middle Tennessee Rural Reentry program graduate Haley George,
who became a quality auditor at local manufacturing plant JSP International after earning a certificate in injection molding

Workforce Connections Inc. (La Crosse, Wisconsin)

Workforce Connections Inc. provides mentoring services for men and women returning from local jails and state prisons to a rural and semi-rural area in western Wisconsin. This population is spread out over more than 6,000 square miles, making access to crucial reentry resources significantly more difficult than it is in more populous urban areas with more transportation options. In response to this challenge, the program moved mentor training online to make participation easier for people who might not be able to easily travel from more rural areas to attend classes in person. To keep people spread out across a large distance engaged over time, Workforce Connections Inc. uses social media. In particular, the program uses a closed Facebook group administered by staff to allow mentors, participants, and staff to share success stories, schedule events, and post other helpful information. Because the program’s target population is often transient in nature and can change addresses or phone numbers frequently, having easy access to an online community helps them stay committed to the program.