The Re-entry Coalition of New Jersey is an organization committed to offender rehabilitation. The Coalition is comprised of agencies providing evidence-based re-entry services to offenders in an effort to promote public safety and reduce the likelihood of offenders returning to the criminal justice system. Residential Community Release Programs (RCRPs) contracted by the Department of Corrections and the State Parole Board have a history of successfully transitioning offenders from prison to the community. In 1976, the Department of Corrections began contracting with community providers for halfway house services. Today, RCRPs provide multiple government agencies with a wide range of evidence-based treatment services -– assessment, substance abuse treatment, gender-based services, work release, outpatient parole services, as well as services to the mentally ill and other specialized populations involved with the New Jersey criminal justice system. All New Jersey RCRPs meet the exacting standards required for American Correctional Association (ACA) or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitative Facilities (CARF) accreditation.
Annually, over 8,000 offenders participate in residential community release programs between Department of Corrections and the State Parole Board in New Jersey, meaning that approximately 38% of releases went through community programs. Over the preceding five-year period, more than 20,000 offenders participated in the RCRP system. With the emphasis on rehabilitation, community corrections facilities have played a major role in reducing New Jersey’s prison population by 19% from 1999 to 2009, while much of the rest of the nation experienced a 12% growth in state prison populations. The evidence-based programs provide a safe, structured environment where offenders nearing release to the community rebuild their lives through programs that address criminogenic factors and substance abuse related issues. All of the programs emphasize reducing chemical dependency, shifting attitudes toward criminal behavior and promoting relapse prevention and skill maintenance.
Community Resource Centers (CRC’s) contracted by the NJ State Parole Board were started initially with federal Violent Offender/ Truth in Sentencing (VOTIS) dollars in 1998. Whereas other states used these funds to build more prison beds, NJ opted to build an infrastructure of alternatives to incarceration. Initially conceived as ‘day incarceration programs’, twelve Day Reporting Centers opened across New Jersey.
These non-residential programs for high risk parole clients living in the community provide valuable treatment interventions. Risk assessments, individualized treatment planning, cognitive behavioral interventions that target criminogenic needs such as attitude and orientations toward crime, problem solving, relapse prevention, substance abuse, sex offender treatment and employment readiness. Now contracted as “Community Resource Centers”, parole clients can receive essential case management services that connect them to health care, employment and housing while increasing their compliance with supervision requirements. Parole clients participating in a CRC must report daily, test drug free and complete all required treatment programs. On average, CRC’s across the state serve more than 3,000 clients annually and in fact have served more than 22,000 parole clients over the last six fiscal years.
Residential Community Release Programs: How the System Works
RCRPs offer evidence-based treatment interventions in both secure and non-secure facilities as part of a continuum of care from incarceration to release. RCRPs employ multi-disciplinary professional staff members who provide clinical treatment that focuses on the physiological and psychological elements of addictive behavior and criminal lifestyles through the use of evidence-based practices. Studies have shown that the continuum of care provided by a robust community corrections system results in reduced recidivism, lower prison populations and savings to government.
RCRP operators provide services to multiple governmental agencies:
New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC): The NJDOC contracts with private non-profit agencies for the provision of residential community release services to eligible inmates. Contracts are awarded through the competitive bid process and monitored for contract compliance by the Department of Corrections. The Office of Community Programs contracts with 20 Residential Community Release Programs (RCRPs) with a total of over 5,000 beds throughout the State of New Jersey, including two Assessment and Treatment Centers.
Offenders apply for enrollment in RCRPs. If accepted, an offender moves from prison to a continuum of care beginning with a 60-day stay at an Assessment and Treatment Center. The implementation of a comprehensive assessment process has been the driving force of New Jersey’s successful treatment model. Using research-driven assessment tools, counselors evaluate risk factors and identify treatment needs. The information gathered during the assessment process guides counselors in how to best target specific interventions and is used to create individual treatment plans and to match the right treatment programs and security levels for specific needs.
The comprehensive assessment of a resident’s current risk and needs factors is used to develop a continuum of care plan and to make the most appropriate placement in the next stage of the continuum – the community setting. This individualized treatment plan is designed with the recognition that the resident will be transitioning to a halfway house before being released into the community. The level of service to be provided going forward varies with the level of risk – higher risk clients will receive a higher level of service and closer supervision. Depending upon the results of the assessment, offenders transfer to either a secure or non-secure residential setting for a period of 6-12 months.
A secure facility provides more intensive supervision, treatment and programming for residents who have been assessed as a higher risk. A non-secure facility provides a less intensive level of treatment and programming and allows individuals to immediately begin to search for and obtain employment or to attend college or a vocational program.
In FY 2010, the Department of Corrections sent 4,800 offenders to the Residential Community Treatment Programs described above.
New Jersey State Parole Board RCRPs: The Community Programs Division of the State Parole Board contracts with providers for the provision of secure and unsecured treatment services to individuals under parole supervision. The State Parole Board also sends offenders who have violated the terms of their parole to community corrections facilities.
New Jersey RCRP operators contract with the Parole Board to provide the following:
- Re-entry Substance Abuse Program (RESAP): The primary purpose of the RESAP is to provide a network of community-based residential substance abuse programming for both male and female parolees. RESAP provides an intensive and comprehensive approach to substance abuse, addiction and relapse prevention.
- Stages to Enhance Parolee Success (STEPS); STEPS Programs offer a structured alternative to re-incarceration for male and female parolees who have violated the conditions of their parole.
- Mutual Agreement Program (MAP): The goal of the MAP program is to afford male and female parolees the opportunity to participate in private chemical abuse treatment as a special condition of parole.
- Community Resource Centers (CRC): CRCs are non-residential outpatient programs that provide community-based reentry services to parolees. Programs use research-proven strategies such as assessment, cognitive classes, substance abuse services, education and employment services to male and female parolees.
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In fiscal year 2011, the New Jersey State Parole Board sent a total of 3300 parolees to Residential Community Treatment Programs.