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- Assessing and Expanding Reentry Services and Resources in Erie County, New York
Assessing and Expanding Reentry Services and Resources in Erie County, New York
Since 2011, Erie County, New York has experienced a 15 percent decrease in total arrests, part of an overall reduction in violent crime arrest and sentencing rates. However, Erie County officials noticed that its reentry population – defined as adults returning from federal, state, and local correctional agencies – experienced a dramatic increase in parole revocations.
Erie County had previously partnered with the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable (RER) to initiate conversations around how to improve reentry, from convening the appropriate stakeholders to identifying the desired outcomes for the enhanced reentry system. To further understand the needs of its reentry population and reduce the number of people whose paroles are revoked, Erie County requested technical assistance from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Through the BJA National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC), Erie County partnered with The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to assess its existing reentry resources and services and provide recommendations to enhance outcomes for people involved in the criminal justice system and help reduce recidivism rates across the country.
The CSG Justice Center conducted a multifaceted, comprehensive mapping exercise of the county’s reentry resources. Leveraging the preexisting support from county leadership and the Greater Buffalo RER, the team conducted multiple focus groups, interviews, and surveys during site visits and meetings with reentry service providers, district judges, and county officials and directors (including those from corrections, housing, and health agencies). Additionally, the team analyzed services based on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). Notably, the county committed to an all-inclusive reentry assessment, choosing to consider the entire returning population rather than targeting smaller groups such as jail-only populations or probation/parole populations.
Through the input received from meetings with stakeholders and data analysis, the CSG Justice Center summarized the following core challenges impacting the county’s ability to deliver reentry services to its various populations:
- Lack of coordination across reentry agencies, providers, and populations.
- Unequal access to high-quality, evidence-based services across the reentry populations.
- Lack of evidence-based practices in the selection of reentry service provider contracts.
- Low participation in pre- and post- release programs due to lack of funding, incentives to participate, and promotion.
To address these challenges, the CSG Justice Center examined several areas of interest, including the intake process and pre-release programming of federal, state, and local correctional facilities; DOCCS and DCJS data; and county probation caseloads and data. This data revealed information about reentry service capacity, populations served, the use of evidence-based processes and tools, and barriers to reentry services. Onsite interviews and surveys of agencies and other partners were also critical for identifying the overlaps and gaps in current processes and services. Additionally, the team coordinated with the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) to pull examples of other jurisdictions’ work in reentry assessment and improvement.
Based on its research, the team developed four primary recommendations for enhancing the provision of services and resources to Erie County’s reentry population:
- Develop a cross-agency coordinating committee to provide guidance to funders and service providers on engaging reentry populations, developing eligibility criteria, and collaborating with partners and stakeholders. The committee would develop a shared set of reentry goals across Erie County, as well as track reentry-related agencies, service providers, and available funding.
- Explore the implementation of a physical or virtual reentry hub to co-locate provider services, collect preliminary risk and needs assessments, and store data from correctional and supervising agencies and reentry providers. This hub would help reduce duplicative services and expand access to resources, including family services, health and housing assistance, public benefits, and legal services.
- Increase the accountability of agencies and service providers. This recommendation includes developing a strategy for assessing if correctional agencies and service providers are offering high-quality programming grounded in evidence-based practices. Additionally, county leaders would develop standards and performance measures (including milestones and expected outcomes) to guide funding decisions.
- Develop incentives for participation in pre-release and community supervision programming, such as early release from probation/parole or motivational interviewing.
Summary and Next Steps
Throughout the assessment, Erie County and its partners demonstrated a deep commitment to using the quantitative and qualitative data collected to effectively transform its reentry system and guide the reallocation of reentry resources and services to achieve the greatest impact. Since the assessment, the county established its own implementation task force, consisting of two committees with leaders recruited from its stakeholder groups, to oversee the implementation of the recommendations outlined in the initial report.
The data-informed lessons gained from the Erie County reentry system mapping exercise are scalable to other jurisdictions across the United States. While Erie County shaped its strategy for combining the right mix of services for its reentry population by using local data, the county also leveraged information from other programs about the technical aspects of reentry (e.g., from NRRC resources). The implementation of coordinated reentry services requires a deep understanding of: the service providers and criminal justice agencies involved, as well as their commitment and support; the types of services needed (e.g., workforce training, housing, mental health, substance abuse treatment); and how these stakeholders can partner together to deliver services effectively and efficiently.
Visit the NRRC website for reentry resources and more information about other jurisdictions’ work to assess and enhance reentry systems.
To submit the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration to be featured in a future BJA NTTAC TTA Spotlight, please email BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov.
If your agency or community is interested in reentry strategies or would like to apply for technical assistance, please contact BJA NTTAC at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov to discuss your unique criminal justice needs.