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U.S. Department of Justice: Smart Reentry Focus on Evidence-based Strategies for Successful Reentry from Incarceration to Community

Deadline: March 14, 2017

The Second Chance Act of 2007 helps to address the significant challenges of reentry by providing comprehensive responses to incarcerated adults who are returning to communities from prison, jail, and juvenile residential facilities. Programs funded under the Second Chance Act help to promote public safety by ensuring that the transition individuals make from prison and jail to the community is successful.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA’s) “Smart Suite” of programs invest in the development of practitioner-researcher partnerships that use data, evidence, and innovation to create strategies and interventions that are effective and economical. This data-driven approach enables jurisdictions to understand the full nature and extent of the crime challenges they are facing and to target resources to the highest priorities. The Smart Suite of programs, which includes the Smart Reentry Program, represents a strategic approach that brings more “science” into criminal justice operations by leveraging innovative applications of analysis, technology, and evidence-based practices (EBPs) with the goal of improving performance and effectiveness while containing costs.

The Smart Suite assists criminal justice practitioners in building their capacity to develop research-based strategies and focus on program fidelity to increase chances of success. This requires practitioner agencies to partner with researchers using an “action research” approach to enhance the collection and review of data, which in turn can serve as a strong foundation for outcome evaluations of program interventions. In “action research,” researchers work closely with practitioners to most effectively address specific public safety/criminal justice related problems (e.g., high recidivism rates, poor police legitimacy). In addition, research partners work with the agency and/or consortium of partners to assess problems, identify underlying causes of these problems, identify effective strategies to address these problems (e.g., “theory of change”), implement data-driven strategies/programs to address these problems, conduct program assessments (e.g., process and/or outcome evaluations), and provide “real-time” feedback to enhance decision-making. Successful partnerships between practitioners and researchers require investments of planning, time, communication, complementary skills, and adequate resources.

The goal of the Smart Reentry Program is to support jurisdictions to develop and implement comprehensive and collaborative strategies that address the challenges posed by reentry to increase public safety and reduce recidivism for individuals reentering communities from incarceration who are at medium to high risk for recidivating. Within the context of this initiative, “reentry” is not envisioned to be a specific program, but rather a process that begins when the individual is first incarcerated (pre-release) and ends with his or her successful community reintegration and reduction in risk of recidivism (post-release).

Successful applicants under this solicitation will be required to work as a team that includes practitioners and an action researcher3 to complete a planning phase for their projects and, after BJA approval, will be authorized to begin the implementation phase of the project. This program’s required deliverables are:

  • A Planning and Implementation Guide that will serve as a research and action plan, comprising a problem analysis, logic model, summary of strategies and intended outcomes, the research base for proposed strategies, and the type and details of the research/evaluation to be conducted. It is envisioned as a product of collaboration among the applicant agency, research partner, and technical assistance provider.
  • Final analysis and report by the research partner.

The target population for the initiative must be a specific subset of medium- to high-risk individuals, as identified using a validated assessment tool, who were convicted as adults and incarcerated in state, local, or tribal prisons or jails. The target population may include individuals convicted of sex crimes, mentally ill individuals, or individuals dually diagnosed with major mental health disorders and alcohol or substance addictions, for participation in the funded program. Priority consideration will be given to applicants who:

  • Focus their initiative on geographic areas with a disproportionate population returning from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities
  • Provide for an independent evaluation of reentry programs that include, to the maximum extent possible, random assignment and controlled studies to determine the effectiveness of such programs
  • Target medium- to high-risk young adults (24 years of age and younger), and incorporate a developmentally responsive model that accounts for the ongoing brain development of young adults and its impacts on decision-making, impulse control, and psychosocial maturity
  • Demonstrate effective case assessment and management abilities to provide a comprehensive and continuous reentry process
  • Link grant-funded activities and services to affordable and supportive housing, leveraged through partnerships with nonprofit housing agencies, public housing authorities, housing finance agencies, and Continuums of Care, particularly for those who are experiencing or at risk of chronic homelessness
  • Include input from nonprofit organizations, as relevant and appropriate, consultation with crime victims and individuals who are released from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities, and coordination with families of incarcerated individuals

Amount: Up to $5,000,000 for five awards of $1,000,000 each.

Eligibility: State and local government agencies and federally recognized Indian tribal governments. Applicants must apply in one of three categories, depending upon their jurisdictional status:

  • Category 1, Competition ID BJA-2017-11542: Units or components of state government agencies serving adults
  • Category 2, Competition ID BJA-2017-11543: Units or components of county or local government agencies serving adults
  • Category 3, Competition ID BJA-2017-11544: Federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaska Native tribes and/or tribal organizations serving adults

Applicants must be able to track unique identifiers for participants, gain access to recidivism data, and report recidivism data, particularly returns to incarceration during the period one year after release.

Link: https://www.bja.gov/funding.aspx

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