Reentry Courts Initiative
Reentry Court in the Superior Court of Delaware
Delaware's Reentry Drug
Court: A Practical Approach to Substance Abusing Offenders
Reentry Court Initiative
In February 2000, the Office
of Justice Programs (OJP) launched a Reentry Court Initiative (RCI) to explore a new approach to improving offender reintegration into the
community. The reentry court concept draws on the drug court model,
using judicial authority to apply graduated sanctions and positive reinforcement
and to marshal resources to support the prisoner's reintegration.
The goal is to establish a seamless system of offender accountability
and support services throughout the reentry process. Central to this effort
is the development of strategies to: (1) improve the tracking and supervising
of offenders upon release using a case management approach; (2) prepare
communities to address public safety concerns; and (3) provide the services
that will help offenders reconnect with their families and the community,
including employment, counseling, education, health, mental health, and
other essential services that support successful reintegration.
Important core elements of a reentry court include assessment
of offender needs and planning for release; active judicial oversight
of offenders during period of supervised release, including use of graduated
and parsimonious sanctions for violation of release conditions; broad
array of supportive services with community involvement; and positive
judicial reinforcement of successful completion of reentry court goals.
The reentry court pilot projects represent a variety of
approaches to developing a reentry court, as well as a wide range of partnerships.
It should be noted that not all sites are courts in the traditional sense;
some are expanded drug courts, while others are parole boards working
with the judiciary to develop quasi-courts through the use of an administrative
law judge. Delaware is one of nine states selected for this initiative; the other states are:
California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, New York, and West
Each site was assigned a Federal site liaison: a designated
staff person from an OJP agency or bureau. The liaison conducted initial
site meetings to discuss the implementation plans. Although OJP does not
offer direct financial support to local sites, it does provide support
through hosting semiannual joint cluster conferences for all applicant
sites, in which participating sites can share information and experiences.
In addition, participating sites may request technical assistance (TA)
as needed for the purpose of designing and implementing various program
elements. TA will be coordinated by OJP's Corrections Program Office and
may be provided by the National Institute of Justice, the Executive
Office for Weed & Seed, the Bureau
of Justice Assistance, other Office
of Justice Programs Bureaus, the Office
of Community Oriented Policing Services, the National
Institute of Corrections, and the US
Department of Labor, as appropriate.
Reentry Court in the Superior Court of Delaware
The Delaware Superior Court reentry initiative pilots reentry courts in
two Delaware communities: New Castle County will target repeat offenders
who have been incarcerated at least one year and have a community service
obligation as a condition of their release; and Sussex County will implement
an initiative that focuses on domestic violence offenders who are at risk
for reoffending, and also have community service obligations as a condition
of their release.
In both communities, the Court partners with the Department
of Correction, which operates all of the state's jails and prisons,
as well as probation. In addition, the Treatment Access Services Center
of the State Department of Health and Social Services supplies case managers
to the Court to support the program. Reentry court officials work closely
with social service advisory and planning bodies, including the state
agency that receives federal criminal justice grant programs on behalf
of the state, to ensure that the reentry initiatives have access to an
array of community-based services.
In the New Castle County reentry court program, case managers
work with offenders while they are in custody to create reentry court
plans. Upon release from secure confinement, offenders are under intensive
probation supervision, with probation officers working closely with community
police officers to enhance offender monitoring. The reentry court incorporates
three tiers of supervision: in Phase I, participants meet weekly with
the judge and probation officer; in Phase II they meet biweekly for three
months, and, if necessary, with more status conferences with the probation
officer; and in Phase III monthly status conferences are held at thirty-day
intervals. Case managers act as a "service broker" and report
directly to the reentry court judge about appropriate services and treatment
for participating offenders.
The Sussex County domestic violence reentry court
is implemented similarly. However, In the domestic violence reentry court
initiative, the Sussex County Deputy Attorney General, who specializes
in domestic violence cases recommends offenders to participate in the
reentry court and develops program requirements in collaboration with
the domestic violence probation officer assigned to the case. These specialized
domestic violence probation officers also act as case managers.