PROJECTThe Transition from Jail to Community (TJC) Initiative

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  • Project Home
  • TJC Initiative: About the Issue
  • The TJC Model
  • The TJC Sites
  • The TJC Sites: Ada County, Idaho
  • The TJC Sites: Davidson County, Tennessee
  • The TJC Sites: Denver, Colorado
  • The TJC Sites: Douglas County, Kansas
  • The TJC Sites: Franklin County, Massachusetts
  • The TJC Sites: Fresno County, California
  • The TJC Sites: Hennepin County, Minnesota
  • The TJC Sites: Howard County, Maryland
  • The TJC Sites: Jacksonville, Florida
  • The TJC Sites: Kent County, Michigan
  • The TJC Sites: La Crosse County, Wisconsin
  • The TJC Sites: Orange County, California
  • TJC Staff & Advisors
  • TJC Intiative: Media Coverage
  • TJC Initiative: Resources for the Field
  • TJC Initiative: Related Links
  • Jail Reentry Roundtable Initiative

  • The TJC model is an innovative, collaborative, data-driven approach to the jail-to-community transition. The figure below illustrates the model and identifies the key components of the TJC model at the system level and the intervention level. 

    For more information about the TJC initiative and the first phase of its implementation, visit the Transition from Jail to Community Online Learning Toolkit and read the TJC Phase I Evaluation Report.


    The TJC model is about system change and targeted interventions. Its elements of the model are outlined below.

    TJC Model Components: Leadership, Vision, and Organizational Culture

    An effective jail transition strategy requires key decisionmakers to set expectations, identify important issues, articulate a clear vision of success, and engage staff and other stakeholders in the effort. These stakeholders will lead local efforts to build a common vision for systems reform; develop infrastructure for interagency and community collaboration, coordination, and information sharing; align missions and organizational cultures of partner agencies to support transition goals; and define roles and responsibilities under the local initiative. 

    Collaborative Structure and Joint Ownership

    Jail systems and community partners are both responsible for helping released people make a successful transition from jail to the community. Effective transition strategies rely on collaboration and information-sharing between jail and community-based partners along with joint ownership of the problem and the solution. Many people who exit jails are already involved with multiple social service and criminal justice agencies; a collaborative approach is essential to tackling jail transition.

    Implementing the TJC model requires formal buy-in from the whole community. Key stakeholders include

    • jail administrators or sheriffs;

    • police departments;

    • community supervision and pretrial services agencies;

    • courts, prosecutors, and public defenders;

    • county executives and local legislators;

    • treatment and service providers;

    • health and mental health agencies;

    • housing, economic development, and workforce development agencies;

    • local businesses and corporate entities;

    • victims advocates;

    • the affected population and their families; and

    • community residents.

    Building and maintaining the partnerships to plan and execute a TJC initiative requires people and organizations to assume different responsibilities. Sites must devise a collaborative structure that includes both an executive-level entity to provide strategic direction and oversight, and a implementation-level entity to craft and execute elements of the local TJC initiative. This may involve forming a local reentry council or expanding criminal justice councils. 

    Joint ownership of responsibilities involves identifying shared outcomes and common performance measures to assess progress, inform adjustments to the strategy, and hold the local initiative accountable to its goals. 

    Data-Driven Understanding of Local Issues

    Data must inform decisionmaking when developing a jail-to-community transition strategy. Understanding local barriers and assets is important to jail-to-community transition; most people exiting jail return to nearby communities where resources are often scarce and must be used efficiently.

    To better understand their local context, TJC sites will review jail management information systems and program records maintained by community agencies to identify the characteristics and needs of the jail population as well as the range of available resources. This baseline information is critical to assessing key issues and developing an appropriate set of integrated responses.

    Understanding the local reentry landscape is necessary to establish policies and programs that reflect local realities. Jurisdictions must (1) assess the characteristics of the jail population, local crime problems, and laws and policies that govern various aspects of jail-to-community transition; (2) identify the geographic areas to which the jail population returns upon release; (3) identify subsets of the jail population likely to consume disproportionate criminal justice and program resources; (4) identify resources that can address key issues, and identify steps to remove potential obstacles; and (5) track service referrals, engagement, and use, and share that information with partner agencies.

    Targeted Intervention Strategies

    Targeted intervention strategies are the basic building blocks for effective jail-to-community transition. Improving that transition involves introducing interventions at critical points. Interventions at these key points can improve reintegration and reduce reoffending, thereby increasing public safety. Interventions should begin in jail with the booking process and continue throughout the incarceration and in the community upon release. Interventions should address the needs, risks, and strengths of each person.

    The model's main intervention-level elements are screening and assessment, transition planning, and interventions that range from information packets to structured treatment and programming. Evidence about what works in reentry suggests that assessment, intervention, and aftercare are important for reducing offender recidivism. Implementing such practices as motivational interviewing or treatment programs that use cognitive behavioral therapy may further reduce recidivism and promote reintegration. The TJC initiative encourages jurisdictions to incorporate these and other evidence-based practices into the design of their intervention strategies. Further discussion of intervention-level elements is presented below.

    Screening and Assessment

    Routine screening and assessment of a person's risks, needs, and capacities is essential component for an effective jail-to-community transition intervention strategy. Screening during the booking process should capture medical, mental health, and substance abuse issues, and include a checklist to identify less immediate needs such as employment and housing history. Screening information will inform decisions about classification and placement in the jail, and indicate whether further assessment is warranted to measure the severity of substance abuse or mental health issues. Ongoing assessment will inform a jail-to-community transition plan.

    The TJC sites will receive technical assistance and guidance in selecting appropriate screening tools and assessment instruments. In sites that already have routine screening and assessment tools in place, TJC will help evaluate the adequacy of these tools.

    For more information, see The Role of Screening and Assessment in Jail Reentry.

    Developing a Transition Plan

    A transition plan is essential in preparing individuals for release and enhancing long-term reintegration, particularly for those who are assessed as moderate- or high-need. The plan specifies the interventions a person needs, when and where interventions should occur and who will deliver them, and the activities for which the person needs to take responsibility. In jail, a transition plan can be as simple as receiving resource packets before release or as comprehensive as working with a case manager and community-based providers weeks or months before release.

    The more comprehensive transition plans should be informed by a person's initial screening and assessment and should be reviewed and updated as necessary in jail and after release. Transition plans will typically specify prerelease interventions to be delivered by jail staff or community-based providers. Plans will also include discharge interventions to address the critical first hours and days after release from jail and to facilitate service delivery in the community. The plans may target such issues as housing, employment, family reunification, educational needs, substance abuse treatment, and health and mental health services. In many cases, a discharge plan may be the primary intervention for individuals released within hours or days of entering jail.

    Plans should be tailored to each person. Some people will need extensive services and support—including intensive case management—to effectively transition to the community, while others may need only minimal assistance.

    For more information, see Case Management Strategies for Successful Jail Reentry.

    Tailored Transition Interventions

    The scope of a jurisdiction's targeted interventions may range from formal treatment to access to community-based providers, volunteers, or family members who conduct "in-reach" into the jail. Some interventions will occur in jail; others will take place in the community after release. 

    Prerelease interventions, delivered by jail staff or community-based providers, may include informational resources; brief training programs that prepare people for reentry; drug and alcohol treatment, educational programs, and job training; access to community-based and informal social supports such as family, mentors, and members of the faith community; and case management to facilitate continuity of care before and after release.

    Discharge interventions are designed to sustain gains made through prerelease interventions. These interventions include resource packets; referrals to community agencies; scheduled appointments in the community; a temporary supply of medication; identification documents; updated transition plans; transportation to a service provider, home, or probation office; and contact information for key people who will facilitate service plans in the community.

    Treatments begun in jail will have little impact after release without follow-up in the community. Community-based organizations and support networks must provide continuity of care through services, training, treatment, and case management when a person is released. Community-based interventions include job-readiness training, substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling; postrelease case management; access to reentry information through outreach or a toll-free hotline; engaging informal social supports; and postrelease supervision.

    Self-Evaluation and Sustainability

    Ongoing self-evaluation and sustainability planning are the final system-level building blocks to ensure a successful jail-to-community transition. Self-evaluation refers to the ability and commitment of local stakeholders to monitor progress and make modifications to ensure that intermediate and long-term goals are met. Baseline data collected on the jail transition population and available resources should continue to be collected to support ongoing self-evaluation. Routine assessments of the initiative's efforts should include data on key outcomes of interest to partners and potential funders to show progress toward desired improvements. Jurisdictions are encouraged to establish mechanisms—such as forums, routine reports from partner agencies, or client satisfaction surveys—to obtain early and frequent feedback from partners and constituents regarding key aspects of the initiative. TJC sites will also receive regular feedback on implementation as part of the initiative's evaluation effort and will be encouraged to use this information to modify and strengthen their application of the TJC model.

    The ultimate goal of the TJC initiative is to build jail-to-community transition efforts that last. Sustainability depends on both formal and informal mechanisms employed by the local initiative to ensure the longevity and legacy of their efforts. Formal information- and resource-sharing agreements that delineate how agencies and organizations work together over time promote sustainability. The continued involvement of local reentry or criminal justice councils in jail-to-community transition can also sustain efforts over time.

    Policy Centers Justice Policy Center