Incarceration produces short-term reductions in crime because while in prison an offender simply cannot commit crime in the community. A longer-term crime reduction benefit is produced if those same offenders do not re-offend after they are released. However the experience of prison is often not a sufficient deterrent against future crime, and prison statistics show that in Australia and overseas, many ex-prisoners go on to commit new offences.
Managing a prisoner's return to the community can positively impact upon the likelihood of their reoffending. This is because for many, the social, economic, physical and psychological problems they confront when they leave prison can be substantial impediments to leading crime-free lives. Effective re-entry management addresses not just the moment of re-entry, but also the times leading up to and following release. It is best seen as a transitional process that can and should involve a range of stakeholders beyond correctional authorities and individual offenders. This is because prisoners' problems are complex, varied and often outside the scope of a single justice agency. Experience has shown that managing effective re-entry initiatives can be very difficult for the agencies involved.
A comprehensive publication recently produced by the United States Re-entry policy council details principles for planning and managing prisoner re-entry. It identifies the following components of the re-entry process:
- planning a re-entry initiative;
- admission to a correctional facility;
- prison-based programming;
- making release decisions;
- managing the key transition period;
- community supervision; and
- elements of effective social service systems.
The report's structure mirrors the stages involved in implementing re-entry initiatives, from overall program planning to actual prisoner re-entry. Policy statements are listed at each stage, and each statement is supplemented by a description of related research, statistics, theory and/or practice, and resulting recommendations. The report provides useful insight into prisoner re-entry issues that may be relevant to an Australian context.
- Re-entry policy council 2005. Report of the Re-entry policy council: charting the safe and successful return of prisoners to the community. New York: Council of State Governments. http://www.reentrypolicy.org/documents/rpc_report.pdf
- Borzycki M 2005. Interventions for prisoners returning to the community. Canberra: Attorney-General's Department. http://www.crimeprevention.gov.au/agd/WWW/ncphome.nsf/AllDocs/DAD69C1C8D3D5F28CA256FDB001DD4B4?OpenDocument
- Borzycki M & Baldry E 2003. Promoting integration: the provision of prisoner post-release services. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no 262. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. http://aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/261-280/tandi262.html