Reentry providers meet to discuss what works

In the largest event of its kind, more than 1,400 federally funded providers of reentry and mental health services convened recently for a pair of overlapping conferences aimed at sharpening efforts to reduce rearrest and reincarceration rates and improve other mental health outcomes for people in contact with the criminal justice system.

Conference attendees represented organizations and corrections agencies from states across the country that have received funding through the Second Chance Act (SCA) and the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP), both supported by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center organized the conference and provides technical assistance to the grantees.

SCA and JMHCP grantees were applauded for their successes and charged with ensuring that their programs make every effort to focus on the people most likely to reoffend; adhere to the latest, evidence-based research; and ensure programs are set up to accurately measure results.

Conference speakers included policy makers, celebrities and political pundits, as well as several members of Congress. “It’s remarkable to see how far we’ve come since the passage of the Second Chance Act in 2008, as corrections agencies across the country have established recidivism reduction as a central piece of their overall mission,” said John Wetzel, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections.

Secretary Wetzel is former Warden in Franklin County, Pa. As warden, he worked with GEO Reentry to implement an innovative Day Reporting Center in Chambersburg that helped reduce jail crowding, lower recidivism and reduce costs. When he assumed the role of state secretary for corrections, he opened several more DRCs that GEO Reentry operates in locations throughout Pennsylvania.

GEO Reentry offers evidence-based programming designed to rehabilitate offenders and successfully prepare them for life after prison while maintaining public safety. At GEO Reentry programs, offenders participate in the treatment and training and then aftercare. GEO Reentry closely monitors the behavior of individuals referred to service centers with frequent check-ins, drug and alcohol testing and case management. Participants receive the ongoing treatment needed to help break cycles of criminal behavior. While class offerings vary by location, classes include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Employment readiness and career development
  • Community Connections, including links to community service providers
  • Adult Basic Education and GED prep resources and referrals
  • Life skills and parenting classes
  • Drug and alcohol classes

GEO Reentry’s intensive approach helps reduce recidivism when compared to traditional offender reentry programs; targets employment or full-time school enrollment upon program completion; generates significant savings for taxpayers through lower incarceration costs; and alters offenders’ attitudes and behavior through treatment and training.

GEO Reentry currently operates more than 60 day reporting centers nationwide.