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Reentry Programs from Both A Criminal Justice and Public Policy Perspective

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Stephen Corcoran 

The media covers and focuses on crimes such as high profile individuals and first degree murder cases which mostly result in capital punishment or life in prison without the possibility of parole. This makes national coverage. However, truth be told that an overwhelming number of offenders who are sentenced that have to serve any sort of jail or prison time are released back to the community and become members of society once again, as Jeremiah Mosteller says in his article, “What Makes a Reentry Program Successful?

There is a program which is known in the criminal justice field as reentry, which is what this article will focus on. While the program focuses on the criminal justice reform, it is important to know that this ties into public policy as well as affecting all the levels of government, including at the federal, state, local and county levels. This means that the president, governor, and county commissioners, along with law enforcements agencies and policy makers, have an important role in policies that are established regarding reform for offenders involved in the criminal justice system.

It is important for everyone focusing on the reentry program to study past data and see what can be done to see that the offenders become upstanding citizens in their community. Being an employee with the Montgomery County Adult Probation Department right outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I get to see to a certain degree of the reform revolving around the criminal justice world in which I will talk about in this article.

According to Mosteller’s article on behalf of the Charles Koch Institute, the purpose for reentry in the criminal justice field is to help individuals find quality work, help the individuals not reoffend and promote the welfare of others in the community. In the year 2016, there were approximately four and a half million individuals in the United States that were being supervised in some capacity. Studies have shown that in order for the reentry program to work, it must begin on the first day that the offender is in prison. Employees of the criminal justice system should ensure that the offender gets the best possible assistance.

Successful results of an individual person thriving in society once he or she is released depend on various factors including finding a steady job where he or she resides, and the amount of schooling as well. About eighty percent of inmates are eventually back in the community and we need to better understand this. Throughout America, there are a lot of groups that are trying to provide the inmates that get paroled with crucial elements for them prosper and become productive members of their society.

About once a month, I get to accompany one of the Adult Probation Department’s Deputy Chiefs up to the county jail for informal court hearings known as administrative dispositions. Also present at these hearings, along with the deputy chief, is an assistant district attorney, public defender and occasionally a private defense attorney. The administrative disposition hearings began in the year 2012, when the former president judge of Montgomery County, along with the chief of the Adult Probation Department, came up with a plan that would benefit both the offenders and judges. The hearings are aimed to help the offenders get sentenced more quickly, and to get a better sentence for their sake. This program also helps out the judges if they approve of the offender going through the process—It takes away some of their workload that the Adult Probation Department would handle.

In summary, all of the high profile crimes that are usually found on the national news that normally result in long-term prison sentence—including life in prison without the possibility of parole and the death penalty—are really few and far between. The vast majority of inmates will at some point or another will be paroled and become members of the community once again. It is important that they function appropriately and become productive members of society. Also, it is essential that politicians, lawmakers, law enforcement officials and agencies at the local, county, state and federal levels of government continue to research effective methods for criminal justice reform and develop policies that would help offenders become productive members of their community after incarceration.

Author: Stephen Corcoran is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University where he received his Bachelor of Arts in History (2009) and of West Chester University, where he earned his Master of Public Administration (2016). He is employed by the Montgomery County Adult Probation Department. Stephen lives his wife Jennifer and dog Cinnamon. His email is [email protected]. He is also a member of the Pennsylvania Keystone Chapter.

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