March 2007

Grant Results

SUMMARY

In 2002, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, in collaboration with the New Jersey Public Policy Research Institute, created the New Jersey Reentry Roundtable. It is an initiative to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the challenges released prisoners face as they reenter society.

Key Recommendations
In December 2003, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice released the roundtable's final report, Coming Home for Good: Meeting the Challenge of Prisoner Reentry in New Jersey. It includes the following recommendations:

  • Begin reentry preparation at a prisoner's entry into prison.
  • Manage the transition back home.
  • Support neighborhoods and families.
  • Create separate strategies for juvenile reentry.
  • Address racial and ethnic disparities.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided $15,000 from March 2003 to May 2004 to support meetings of the New Jersey Reentry Roundtable.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROBLEM

According to the project director, Kenneth Zimmerman, the number of individuals leaving the criminal justice system in New Jersey has increased dramatically over the past 25 years due to a fivefold increase in the number of individuals incarcerated or detained, with consequences for its communities and families. These include community resource expenditures, public safety, racial equity and the stability of families. Of those incarcerated or detained, almost all — 96 percent — will serve their time and return home.

Thus, in 2001, more than 16,000 individuals returned to their communities from state prison alone, one-third of them without any ongoing parole supervision. Before the RWJF grant, an introductory meeting of the roundtable was held in October 2002. In early 2003, the roundtable's sponsors turned to RWJF and others for additional funding.

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RWJF STRATEGY

RWJF has supported a number of projects concerned with prisoner reentry and recidivism. In particular, from 1992 to 2001, RWJF funded Health Link, a $12 million 10-year project, managed by the Research Foundation of the City University of New York - Hunter College.

Health Link demonstrated and evaluated an approach for reducing drug and alcohol abuse by linking jail inmates with a coordinated set of substance abuse treatment, case management and other needed health and social services while they are in jail and after they are released back into their communities (grant ID#s 018331, 019681, 029583, 030132 and 036950; evaluated under grant ID#s 019458, 024852, 030226, and 031735).

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THE PROJECT

In 2002, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, in collaboration with the New Jersey Public Policy Research Institute, created the New Jersey Reentry Roundtable as a forum for stakeholders (state officials, academic researchers, business and labor leaders, members of the community and faith-based organizations, health care providers, law enforcement and the philanthropic community) to assess and develop a strategic response to the challenge of prisoner reentry in New Jersey.

RWJF and other funders supported the second through fifth full-day roundtables, convened January 2003 through October 2003 to assess the challenges prisoners face as they reenter society and to examine the means by which to develop a comprehensive strategy to address these challenges. The topics were:

  • Reentry and Public Health.
  • Employment and Community Development.
  • Juvenile Reentry.
  • Conclusions and Moving Forward.

Papers distributed in advance of the meeting provided participants with information about the session topic. For more information on the separate roundtables, see the Bibliography.

Roundtable participation was by invitation only, and no representatives of the media were invited. A core group of participants attended each meeting, supplemented by individuals with expertise in specific topic areas being discussed. More than 75 people participated in each meeting. The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice staffed the roundtables. John Farmer, former New Jersey attorney general, and Stanley Van Ness, former public defender and public advocate, co-chaired the events.

In the fall of 2003, the National Governor's Association invited the participation of New Jersey in its Reentry Policy Academy. The New Jersey Governor's office asked staff from the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice, the grantee organization, to serve as consultants on the state's participation in the Reentry Policy Academy, with emphasis on how to implement the recommendations of the roundtable.

In December 2003, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice released the roundtable's final report, Coming Home for Good: Meeting the Challenge of Prisoner Reentry in New Jersey (see the Bibliography).

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RECOMMENDATIONS

The report includes the following recommendations regarding prisoner reentry into society:

  • Begin reentry preparation at a prisoner's entry into prison. Periods of incarceration should be used to maximize successful reentry. An important part of this should be a comprehensive assessment of each prisoner, including his or her health (including mental health) and treatment needs, and educational and vocational training needs.
  • Manage the transition back home. The transition period from incarceration to community living is critical to achieving stable reintegration of former prisoners. The reentry process should be supervised and, among other things, include pre-discharge planning for housing, employment, education, health care and other basic needs, the provision of identification documents and an expanded use of halfway houses.
  • Remove unnecessary barriers to reentry success. Former prisoners, while responsible for their actions and their role in becoming productive citizens, are impeded by too many unproductive legal and regulatory barriers, such as occupational and licensing bars (these may include bars on all public employment and home health care work), and bans on assistance including food stamps.
  • Support neighborhoods and families. Given that most prisoners return to a limited number of communities, the absence of an effective reentry strategy harms families and destabilizes affected communities. Post-release support can be targeted at those neighborhoods most affected by reentry.
  • Use opportunities to cut incarceration costs and reallocate correctional resources. In the near term, this may mean looking at less costly alternatives to incarceration for some offenders, such as drug courts (drug treatment combined with court supervision), and — for some rigorously evaluated convicts — the service of sentences in the community under intensive supervision.
  • Create separate strategies for juvenile reentry. Because juveniles are children and not adults, the strategies and systems of juvenile reentry must be distinct from those for adults and should recognize the unique developmental and social dynamics of adolescents.
  • Address racial and ethnic disparity. African Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately overrepresented in state prisons and juvenile detention facilities, and steps should be taken to address this problem.

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AFTER THE GRANT

The New Jersey Reentry Roundtable concluded at the end of the grant period. Project staff has provided technical assistance to a number of jurisdictions planning similar convenings. They participated in a "reentry roundtable" session in Chicago in May 2004.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Support of the New Jersey Reentry Roundtables Aimed at Addressing the Needs of Ex-offenders Including Expanding Substance Abuse Treatment

Grantee

New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (Newark,  NJ)

  • Amount: $ 15,000
    Dates: April 2003 to March 2004
    ID#:  047682

Contact

Kenneth Zimmerman
(973) 624-9400
kzimmerman@.isj.org

Web Site

http://www.njisj.org

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Reports

Coming Home for Good: Meeting the Challenge of Prisoner Reentry in New Jersey. Newark, NJ: New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and New Jersey Public Policy Research Institute, December 2003. Also available online.

Employment Opportunities for Ex-Offenders in New Jersey. New Brunswick, NJ: John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, 2003. Available online.

Giles D. School Related Problems Confronting New Jersey Youth Returning to Local Communities and Schools from Juvenile Detention Facilities and Juvenile Justice Commission Programs. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Reentry Roundtable, 2003. Also available online.

Sullivan M. Needs and Opportunities for Research on Prisoner Reentry in New Jersey. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice, 2003.

Flint, C and Sheridan M. Women and Reentry in New Jersey. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Reentry Roundtable, 2003.

Forsberg M. Spending Trends on Corrections in New Jersey. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Policy Perspectives, 2003.

Sponsored Workshops

"New Jersey Reentry Roundtable Session One: Overview and Introduction," October 22, 2002, Trenton, NJ. Attended by 75–80 participants, including the State Attorney General, the Commissioner of Corrections, the State Public Defender, Executive Director of State Parole Board, Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission, Chairman of the Victims of Crime Compensation Board and representatives from other state agencies, community-based and faith-based organizations, academic institutions and the legal profession. The meeting consisted of one panel with four presentations and structured discussion. A briefing paper and a presentation from the roundtable are available online: "An Overview of Prisoner Reentry in New Jersey" and "A Portrait of Prisoner Reentry in New Jersey."

"New Jersey Reentry Roundtable Session Two: Reentry and Public Health," January 24, 2003, Trenton, NJ. Attended by 80 participants, including the State Attorney General, the Commissioner of Corrections, the State Public Defender, Executive Director of State Parole Board, Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission, Chairman of the Victims of Crime Compensation Board and representatives from other state agencies, community-based and faith based organizations, academic institutions and the legal profession, with additional experts from the health care field. The meeting consisted of three panels, five presentations and structured discussion. Three papers were commissioned and distributed in advance. A paper and two presentations from this roundtable are available online: "Reentry into the Community After Addiction Treatment Within New Jersey's Prison and Jails," "Investing in Health and Justice Outcomes: An Investment Strategy for Offenders with Mental Health Problems in New Jersey" and "Reentry Issues for Offenders Living with HIV."

"New Jersey Reentry Roundtable Session Three: Employment and Community Development," April 10, 2003, Trenton, NJ. Attended by 80 participants, including the State Attorney General, the Commissioner of Corrections, the State Public Defender, Executive Director of State Parole Board, Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission, Chairman of the Victims of Crime Compensation Board and representatives from other state agencies, community-based and faith-based organizations, academic institutions and the legal profession, with additional experts in workforce development. The meeting consisted of four panels, 10 presentations and structured discussion. Two papers were commissioned and distributed in advance: "Employment Opportunities for Ex-offenders in New Jersey" and "Legal Barriers to Prisoner Reentry in New Jersey." These are available online. Also available at the Web site are two presentations from the roundtable: "Incarceration, Employment and Public Policy" and "Legal Consequences of Incarceration for Reentry."

"New Jersey Reentry Roundtable Session Four: Juvenile Reentry," June 20, 2003, Trenton, NJ. Attended by 85 participants, including the State Attorney General, the Commissioner of Corrections, the State Public Defender, Executive Director of State Parole Board, Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission, Chairman of the Victims of Crime Compensation Board and representatives from other state agencies, community-based and faith-based organizations, academic institutions and the legal profession, with additional experts in the juvenile justice field. The meeting consisted of four panels, 10 presentations and structured discussion. Two papers were commissioned and distributed in advance: "School Related Problems Confronting New Jersey Youth Returning to Local Communities and Schools from Juvenile Detention Facilities and Juvenile Justice Commission Programs" and "Community Re-entry of Adolescents from New Jersey's Juvenile Justice System." These are available online.

"New Jersey Reentry Roundtable Session Five: Conclusions and Moving Forward," October 15, 2003, Trenton, N.J. Attended by 85 participants, including the State Attorney General, the Commissioner of Corrections, the State Public Defender, Executive Director of State Parole Board, Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Commission, Chairman of the Victims of Crime Compensation Board and representatives from other state agencies, community-based and faith-based organizations, academic institutions and the legal profession. The meeting consisted of four presentations in an initial panel to present summaries of final papers, then presentation and discussion of a draft of the roundtable series' final report (see "Reports" above). Another presentation from this roundtable, "A Portrait of Prisoner Reentry in New Jersey," is available online.

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Report prepared by: Barbara Matacera Barr
Reviewed by: James Wood
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Constance Pechura

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