Incarceration

SUCCESSFUL REINTEGRATION: A DIALOGUE FOR ACTION ON INCARCERATION AND REENTRY

The Challenge
The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of global prison population – with a high cost in human terms and a fiscal cost exceeding $80 billion per year. Recidivism rates (relapse of criminal behavior) within five years of prison-release exceeds 75 percent. The economic, social and other collateral 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. Corrections professionals we have interviewed commented that there is significant agreement, on the left and right, that now is the time to do something different about incarceration. With so many diverse interests and stakeholders focusing on criminal justice reform, we believe the time is ripe for a respectful dialogue among the various stakeholders involved in establishing federal, state, and local policies in this arena.

The Project
Convergence is researching and assessing how to apply its collaborative dialogue-leading-to-action methodology to the issue of high rates of incarceration and recidivism in the United States. Of fundamental concern is how to explore alternatives or new approaches that might be employed in this arena while at the same time meeting the needs for public safety. Leading areas for discussion include what happens in prison to prepare people to return to society and what happens in the initial period of reentry following release from prison. A robust discussion could include, but not be limited to, the following issues:

  • How to implement a “do-no-harm” strategy that mitigates practices inside a prison that may create or exacerbate negative behaviors.
  • How to improve criminal justice data systems.
  • How to assess the effectiveness of prison programs.
  • How to ensure ‘warm handoffs’ between correctional and community service providers.

During the assessment phase, Convergence staff will consult: wardens and correctional officers; current and formerly incarcerated persons; justice reinvestment advocates; juvenile justice advocates; health care and behavioral health providers; legal providers (e.g., public defenders and judges); prison ministries and faith-based programs; re-entry providers (e.g., employment and housing services); and victim rights advocates.

Project Plan
We are actively interviewing recognized stakeholders and experts with a full range of viewpoints and expertise on the criminal justice system. Based on this assessment, we will invite 25-30 individuals to participate in a 12-18-month dialogue process. Dialogue sessions will be professionally facilitated and designed to build trust, develop a common understanding of the issue, and craft a shared action agenda. This process can evolve in many ways, but we encourage stakeholders to take ownership of the recommendations and continue to work together, often with our involvement, after the dialogue phase has ended.