Reentry Ready

Convergence Reentry Ready Project:
Improving Incarceration’s Contribution to Successful Reentry

The Challenge
The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of the global prison population – with a high price in human terms and a fiscal cost exceeding $80 billion per year. Recidivism rates (relapse of criminal behavior) within five years of prison-release exceed 75 percent. Formerly incarcerated individuals find it very challenging to secure employment, housing, and other basic supports to reintegrate back into society successfully. As a result, the economic and social costs to former inmates, their families and communities are significant and long-lasting.

America’s high rates of incarceration and recidivism are receiving considerable attention across the political spectrum. With so many diverse interests and stakeholders focusing on criminal justice reform, we believe the time is ripe for respectful dialogue among the various stakeholders involved in establishing federal, state, and local policies in this arena.

Project Overview
Convergence assessed how to apply its collaborative dialogue-leading-to-action methodology to the issue of incarceration and reentry in the United States. We conducted over 150 interviews and held four roundtables with diverse experts and thought leaders with a full range of viewpoints to shape the work of the dialogue. Based on this assessment, the dialogue began in October of 2017.

Our stakeholder table is composed of 28 individuals who represent public and private prisons, correctional officers, law enforcement, prison reform experts, mental health providers, community groups that support reentry, and right- and left-leaning advocates for criminal justice reform. Several participants also are formerly incarcerated individuals who bring this lived experience, in addition to their professional expertise.

Our fundamental question for exploration is how we can transform incarceration and reentry systems to maximize the successful reintegration of individuals back into society. The leading area for discussion is improving coordination between multiple systems to facilitate a warm handoff from correctional facilities to community-based reentry resources including both public and private agencies.

The group is exploring how we can:

  • hold criminal justice and related systems accountable for results;
  • share effective strategies in use throughout the country’s incarceration and re-entry systems;
  • remove barriers that hinder implementation of these strategies; and,
  • leverage resources between systems.

We are confident that the solutions we develop will address the practice, regulatory, and policy issues that are hindering better outcomes during incarceration and reentry.

Moving Foward
In the initial dialogue sessions, stakeholders agreed on a set of principles to guide their work together. The first, and most important principle, is the statement: Our society must first acknowledge the humanity of justice-system involved individuals. As such, returning individuals should share in the decision-making that affects their daily lives.

After reaching agreement on the principles, dialogue participants worked to surface barriers and identify strategies across multiple systems. The stakeholders have formed three working groups: education and employability, housing and community connections, and physical and behavioral health.

Convergence will continue the dialogue sessions through the end of 2018. Reentry Ready recommendations will be ripe for implementation at the local, state, and national levels. Our stakeholders have committed to creating a community of practice and action where they will gradually take ownership of the recommendations and continue to work together after the dialogue phase has ended.