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Exploring the Role of the Police in Prisoner Reentry

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2012
24 pages

This paper - one in a series of papers that will be published from the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety - makes the case that there is a role for the police in the prisoner reentry movement.


The discussion focuses on two key issues: the current prisoner reentry phenomenon in America and the rationales for police involvement in prisoner reentry. Due to the large number of individuals incarcerated in prisons and jails in the last several decades, every year large numbers of inmates are completing their sentences and returning to communities throughout the United States. The recidivism rates for these ex-inmates remain high, and parole violations are common. Ex-inmates, who are mostly men, are disproportionately concentrated in urban communities and socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods with high crime rates. The issue being addressed by communities, States, and the Nation is how to serve and manage ex-inmates so reentry outcomes are improved. A wide variety of organizations have become involved in this effort, including transitional housing providers, mental health clinics, supported-work organizations, foster care agencies, workforce development corporations, community colleges, and faith-based organizations. These community-based organizations initiate and conduct their activities in partnership with parole, police, and corrections departments. Police departments typically have had a limited role in the formal process of releasing prisoner and managing their reentry. The affirmative case for a police role in the reentry process stems from an understanding that this role could contribute to the police mission in two significant ways. First, it could promote public safety and improve police effectiveness by engaging in problem-oriented policing activities. Second, it could promote police legitimacy by strengthening relationships with communities through engagement in community policing activities. Examples are provided of how police become involved in reentry efforts. 48 references

Date Published: July 1, 2012