We in the United States are now incarcerating one out of every 100 of our adult citizens. Since 95-98% of all inmates eventually are released, some 720,000 people are returning to their home communities from prison every year. Recidivism rates hovering around 67% signal the failure of the management of prisoner re-entry and constitute a major social crisis.
Community Corrections Alternatives
Counties, municipalities, states and federal agencies are responding to the crisis in various ways. Sentencing reform, diversion programs, specialty courts, graduated sanctions, early release, and electronic surveillance are some creative responses to the pressures of costly incarceration. Whatever the approach, the gradual transition of inmates from prison back into their neighborhoods through community-based corrections settings that emphasize treatment, skill development and employment remains a solid strategy for successful reintegration for the majority of ex-offenders.
Barriers to Increasing Community Capacity
The Second Chance Act directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to increase considerably the amount of time that people may spend in residential re-entry centers at the end of their sentences, a practice which would significantly and immediately decrease prison populations. BOP is struggling to find the capacity to accommodate these increased numbers of people destined for community alternatives, however. The largest barrier to increasing community capacity for transitioning people from prison back to their homes is community opposition.
The Issue of Siting
Citizens generally fear and reject placement of community corrections programs within their neighborhoods, and these concerns are expressed through local zoning and development restrictions. Community resistance has hardened in recent years; what has always proven difficult in siting community corrections programs and facilities has not become nearly impossible. All across North American, those who would provide community correctional alternatives are met with intensely hostile reactions to siting new or expanding existing programs.
ICCA Toolkit for Siting Programs
A broad-based international committee of experienced community corrections professionals representing both residential services and probation and parole programs has come together to plan a multi-phased and multi-dimensional approach to winning support for siting at the local, grassroots level. The project draws upon the hard-won experiences and successes of ICCA’s constituents to create a streamlined, professionally packaged siting process.
Toolkit Project: “Second Chances: Keeping Neighbors Safe”
With a $100,000 start-up grant from the Public Welfare Foundation, ICCA has launched work on a model for siting community corrections programs and facilities that enables local agencies to break down barriers and misperceptions, and win local support. The project will produce and widely distribute a tool box of resources to local agency providers. Use of the toolkit will be guided by a step-by-step siting plan, a basic road map which will aid in professionalizing the siting skills of local agency leaders. Training and technical assistance in the use of the resource kit is included in the dissemination phase. The overall project goal is to increase public safety by helping our clients– people returning home from prison– become or continue to be productive and contributing members of the community.