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Program Profile: Allegheny County (Penn.) Jail-Based Reentry Specialist Program

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on October 24, 2016

Program Summary

This was a two-phase reentry program with an overall goal of reducing recidivism and improving inmates’ transition into the community. Phase 1 provided inmates with in-jail programming and services to prepare them for release. Phase 2 provided inmates with up to 12 months of supportive services in the community. The program was rated Effective. Program participants had a 10 percent chance of rearrest, compared with a 34 percent chance for the comparison group.

Program Description

Program Goals
In 2010 and 2011, criminal justice and human services stakeholders in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, partnered to launch two reentry programs under the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Second Chance Act. The first of these programs, Allegheny County Jail-Based Reentry Specialist Program (Reentry 1), was established in 2010 and sought to reduce recidivism and improve inmates’ transition into the community by coordinating the reentry services the inmates received in jail and in the community (Willison, Bieler, and Kim 2014).
Target Population
The program included males and females who had been sentenced to a minimum of 6 months in jail and were returning to the county upon release. The inmates were also those categorized as medium- to high-risk offenders on the Proxy Triage Risk screener, which determines an inmate’s risk of reoffending through three factors: current age, age at first arrest, and number of prior offenses (Willison, Bieler, and Kim 2014).
Program Components/Key Personnel
The reentry program included two phases: Phase 1 provided inmates with 5 or more months of in-jail programming and services to prepare them for release, and Phase 2 provided them with up to 12 months of supportive services in the community. The program included a team of five people dedicated to the inmate’s success: one Reentry Probation Officer and four Reentry Specialists (Willison, Bieler, and Kim 2014). The program attempted to reduce the likelihood of recidivism by
  1. Using a structured risk/needs assessment, referring inmates to a cognitive-restructuring program (called Thinking for a Change), and transferring them to the jail’s Reentry Pod. The Reentry Pod was designed to give inmates greater access to reentry services and program staff.
  2. Coordinating services in jail and in the community by assigning a Reentry Specialist to work with the inmate. The Reentry Specialist provided case-management services such as designing transition plans and providing basic support for up to 12 months post-release.
  3. Improving educational outcomes through literacy classes, GED classes, peer tutoring, adult basic education, and pre-apprenticeship training both pre- and post-release.
  4. Improving employment outcomes through an employment program that typically began with the Urban League’s Reentry Assistance Management Program (RAMP), which is a 22-hour, job readiness program. The program matched inmate interests and skills to various job options, taught important communication and problem-solving skills, and guided inmates through the job search process.
  5. Reducing substance abuse through prevention programs, including cognitive-based therapy, gender-specific treatment, and relapse prevention.
  6. Enhancing housing opportunities through access to Goodwill’s HARBOR project, which provides eligible ex-offenders with housing and supportive services.
  7. Supporting healthy family functioning and relationships through parenting classes, relationship classes, and structured visits between inmates and their children. Additionally, the program included a family support specialist who worked with inmates and their families to prepare them for the inmate’s release.
  8. Increasing  post-release compliance through the program’s Probation Officer (PO). The PO conducted additional risk/needs assessments and used them to modify the Offender Supervision Plans, which were then provided to the inmate’s supervising PO and ensured that housing plans were in place, and that the inmate and supervising PO received information about the date and location of their first meeting (Willison, Bieler, and Kim 2014).

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Probability of Rearrest
Willison, Bieler, and Kim (2014) found that the Allegheny County Jail-Based Reentry Specialist Program had a statistically significant impact on the probability of future arrests. Program participants had a 10 percent chance of rearrest, compared with a 34 percent chance for the comparison group (a significant difference).
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
To investigate the effect of the Allegheny County Jail-Based Reentry Specialist Program (Reentry 1), Willison, Bieler, and Kim (2014) used a quasi-experimental design, assessing the program’s impact on recidivism. Data (such as demographics, criminal offending risk scores, and criminal history) was drawn from the Allegheny County administrative database. The Reentry 1 program enrollments were conducted from June 22, 2010 through February 8, 2013, with an evaluation period that took place between September 9, 2012, and August, 2013. Inmates were excluded from Reentry 1 if they had pending charges, were in jail due to technical and out-of-county holds, were probation or parole detainees, and were being held under state or federal supervision requirements. During this period, 341 inmates were served by the program; however, of this group, 25 were declared ineligible after initial program intake and 11 failed to meet the program requirements for participation. As a result, the final number of eligible Reentry 1 participants was 305.  

Propensity score matching was conducted to create a balance between the treatment group (participants in Reentry 1) and the comparison group. The matching variables included race, gender, citizenship status, marital status, origin of driver’s license, age, the number of prior arrests, and the inmate’s Proxy Triage Risk screener score. If an individual’s matching score was too high or too low to correspond to another inmate’s score, the inmate was removed from the sample. Following propensity score matching, there were 281 Reentry 1 program participants and 281 matched comparison inmates.  

The treatment group was 93 percent male; had a mean age of 31; and was 60 percent black, 39 percent white, and 1 percent other. Additionally, approximately 9 percent of the treatment group was considered low risk, 43 percent considered medium risk, and 48 percent considered high risk. The comparison group was similar on baseline characteristics. The comparison group was 93 percent male; had an average age of 32 and was 61 percent black, 38 percent white, and 1 percent other. Additionally, 10 percent of the comparison group was considered low risk, 35 percent considered medium risk, and 55 percent considered high risk.  

Logistic regression and Kaplan-Meier survival curves were used to analyze the impact of the Reentry 1 program on the probability of rearrest 90 days, 180 days, and 360 days after release from jail.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Willison, Bieler, and Kim (2014) conducted a fidelity assessment to measure whether the Allegheny County Jail-Based Reentry Specialist Program was implemented as designed. The assessment also identified factors that promoted successful reentry and barriers that hindered reentry. Through the assessment, the researchers were also able to determine whether the program was following the core correctional practices. This information was gathered through more than 40 semi-structured interviews with 60 Allegheny County Jail Collaboration stakeholders, focus groups with both clients and family members, as well as an analysis of 76 case files. The goal of the fidelity assessment was to gather data to inform decisions about potential program modifications. Overall, the assessment found that Reentry 1 was implemented as designed and followed core correctional practices.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Willison, Janeen Buck, Sam G. Bieler, and KiDeuk Kim. 2014. Evaluation of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative Reentry Programs. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Adult Reentry Programs
This practice involves correctional programs that focus on the transition of individuals from prison into the community. Reentry programs involve treatment or services that have been initiated while the individual is in custody and a follow-up component after the individual is released. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, White, Other

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Correctional, Other Community Setting

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Aftercare/Reentry, Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, Vocational/Job Training, Wraparound/Case Management

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Current Program Status: Active