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A Partnership for Positive Re-entry

Earl Johnson, Director of the Office of Family Assistance at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, discusses initiatives designed to help individuals coming out of correctional institutions.

In addressing the pressing issues facing our families and children, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) has taken the President’s call for flexibility and collaboration to heart.  Using $6 million of funding for responsible fatherhood programming, ACF has partnered with the Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct four pilot/demonstration projects targeting the re-entry population. 

The goal of this collaborative effort: to change the outcomes of individuals coming out of our correctional institutions moving them toward self-sufficiency and greater family and community integration.

The most recent data available is compelling. Nearly 730,000 individuals were released from our correctional facilities in 2009Of the 1,518,535 held in the nation’s prison system in 2007, 809,800 of them have families and children that they have left behind as they serve their sentences.  What we have learned from this data is that no one is better off from the experience. After having been “inside” for days, months, or years, they are faced with life on the “outside” with no clear path back into their homes, communities, or workplace. From the research, we know that transition is difficult because nearly 68 percent of all formerly incarcerated individuals will return to prison or jail within the first three years of release.

Our Federal partnership is committed to changing these outcomes by leveraging or collective resources and knowledge. ACF has blended evidence-based promising practices gleaned from DOJ’s Second Chance programs and HUD’s Project Reunite in this new $6 million pilot program. HUD and DOJ have committed to work with the four grantee sites to creating environments that support and guide the transition of the formerly incarcerated back into their communities. 

  • In preparation for re-entry, and with the assistance of DOJ, these pilot programs will reach into correctional facilities prior to individuals’ release and provide them with case management, and soft- and hard-skills development and enhancement strategies. While no partner or spouse will be forced or coerced to participate in the housing or relationship development activities, this partnership will incorporate a plan on how to re-enter their families’ lives if and when safe to do. This effort will also begin to prepare them for entry into a competitive labor market. 
  • HUD will work with the programs to support the housing needs of these individuals upon their release. This will mean either that a person will be getting a place to live on their own or will work with a partner or spouse to overcome barriers, so that they may re-unite with their families who might live in public housing or have Section 8 housing assistance.

The partnership is focused on success.  It is based on the principle that our positive actions will lead to stronger and healthier results for the community as a whole. 

Earl Johnson is the Director of the Office of Family Assistance within the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.