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"Historic Opportunity" For Inmate Re-Entry

March 16, 2011 12:04:00 am

Photo by 1v0 via Flickr.

DOJ official promises “aggressive research strategy” to test new models for helping released prisoners re-enter their communities.

The current economic crisis has provided an "historic opportunity" to make progress on helping released prisoners re-enter society, James Burch, acting director of the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance, told the International Community Corrections Association on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Burch, whose agency is overseeing $100 million in federal aid for re-entry projects under the 2008 Second Chance Act, said the current economic crisis is forcing government to do business differently and more efficiently.

He noted that because crime rates are down, "we are not in crisis mode," and that the federal government is operating "with more accountability and transparency."

Burch said that many projects among the $28 million in federal grants for re-entry awarded in late 2009 are just now gearing up and do not have results to report yet.

He promised an "aggressive research strategy" along with the National Institute of Justice to test which models work and which don't.

"The payoff will be huge," Burch predicted.

The Justice Department would like to fund programs testing the model offered by Hawaii's Project Hope, which advocates swift sanctions for probationers, but the availability of funds may depend on the results of ongoing consideration by congress of the federal budget for the current fiscal year that runs through September.

Ted Gest is the president of Criminal Justice Journalists.

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