Reentry Court

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.

Pilot Projects

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 Virginia.

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.

The Delaware Superior Court reentry initiative piloted reentry courts in two Delaware communities. New Castle County targeted 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 implemented an initiative that focused on domestic violence offenders who were at risk for reoffending, and also have community service obligations as a condition of their release.

Reentry Court in the Superior Court of Delaware

The New Castle County initiative has become a successful component of the Court's Problem-Solving Court's Program.

The Reentry 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"service broker" and report directly to the reentry court judge about appropriate services and treatment for participating offenders.