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The Jail Administrator's Toolkit for Reentry

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Document date: May 01, 2008
Released online: May 07, 2008

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

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Geared toward jail practitioners who are working to improve reentry in their jurisdictions, The Jail Administrator's Toolkit for Reentry provides key elements of the reentry process from jail staff issues and assessment screens to identifying community resources and coordinating stakeholders. The Toolkit also offers examples and materials taken from around the country to assist jail practitioners in developing reentry strategies that can serve a variety of jail populations, whether pretrial or sentenced, and in a variety of jail jurisdictions.


Welcome to The Jail Administrator’s Toolkit for Reentry. As the title states, this handbook is all about jail reentry. Reentry means different things to different people, but here we mean the process of preparing inmates to transition from jail to the community.

To many in the field, reentry has become the new buzzword. Pick up any American Jails or Corrections Today magazine and you are likely to find more than one article publicly declaring the need to address the reentry issue. Such reentry phrases as prerelease planning, discharge planning, transition planning, continuity of care, community-oriented corrections, and transitional care are now used so often in the field that they compete with the get-tough-on-crime language of “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” and “three strikes and you’re out.”

The process of how best to reenter inmates back into the community, however, is still evolving. This Toolkit is designed to move the reentry discussion forward. We recognize that jails perform many functions and incarcerate individuals for different reasons—pretrial detention, short-term sentences, step-downs from state and federal prisons, immigration detention, emergency mental health commitments—and for different periods of time ranging from hours to years. Our goal is not to focus on one type of inmate or one type of reentry model, but rather to offer a set of guidelines and principles accompanied by examples taken from the field that may assist you in developing reentry strategies that can serve specific jail populations in your jurisdiction regardless of whether an inmate is in your facility for one hour or one year.

What we hope you notice about this Toolkit is its practitioner-oriented focus, and its use of real language and examples from jails and criminal justice officials across the country. Our goal is not to bore you with statistics or studies that look good on paper, but are difficult to implement in the field or don’t seem relevant to your work. Instead, the information in the Toolkit is straight from the source: small, medium, and large jails tackling the reentry issue on a daily basis. Jails differ from prisons so we only highlight county- and city-specific reentry examples. Even among jails, urban, suburban, and rural facilities face different challenges. For example, there are typically fewer community resources in sparsely populated areas, and small, rural jails don’t have the purchasing power their larger counterparts have. We don’t want to understate the challenges of reentry in small, rural jails, and recognize that most of the Toolkit examples come from urban and suburban jurisdictions.

Of course, for all of you who are data-oriented, and even for those who aren't, we highly recommend that you review the more data-oriented companion report Life After Lockup: Improving Reentry from Jail to the Community to gain a more extensive picture of the jail reentry issue. The report also includes examples of 42 reentry efforts from around the country.

The information in the Toolkit was developed in 2006 when we convened the Jail Reentry Roundtable, bringing together jail administrators, correction and law enforcement professionals, county and community leaders, and service providers to discuss the role of jails in the reentry process. Link to www.urban.org/projects/ reentry-roundtable/roundtable9.cfm for papers and presentations prepared for the Roundtable. The Roundtable discussions led to the outline for the Toolkit. The participants and a core of advisors brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table which we have incorporated throughout the Toolkit. In addition, they gave us the names of administrators and other criminal justice personnel to contact who are using cost-effective reentry strategies in their facilities.

(End of excerpt. The entire paper is available in PDF format.)

Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice

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