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From Reentry to Stability: Preventing Recidivism

by Maryellen Hess Cameron 2 min read

Maryellen Hess Cameron

Maryellen Hess Cameron spent over 25 years as the Executive Director of non-profit agencies in the social....

Identifying The Issue When Re-Entering Society

People released from all types of detention facilities may not be fully prepared to re-enter society. They will transition from a life in which they had few choices to one in which they will have much greater control over their decisions. Many public resources bar ex-offenders, taking away supports that could help establish a crime-free life. The returnees find themselves at a crossroads; they can repeat the poor choices that led them to incarceration or make better ones and correct their life direction.

Case managers coordinate with other service providers for their expertise and resources so that the client has a framework for making better decisions. , As discussed in a previous post, “Reduce Recidivism with the Right Assessment Tools”, case managers must meet with individuals who seek help or for whom you received a referral and screen them for eligibility. After a thorough screening, it’s time to move onto the next phase and develop the case management plan. 

Ideally, a single case plan is developed with input from all agencies interacting with the client - including the corrections, probation, and community-based providers - and the case plan follows the client into the community upon release. The corrections facility staff can provide insights on that to supplement your own assessment. 


There is not a hard line between eligibility screening and initiating the services that meet each client’s constellation of needs. You can use the time you spend with them for screening to begin building trust. Many may not know what to expect when they return to society, particularly if they have been incarcerated for years. All of the networks from their life before incarceration may be broken. They might have lost family connections. Employment, housing, and public benefits are gone. Terms of release are likely to restrict contact with family and friends if they also have criminal histories.

Assessment can flow into informal discussions with clients about their need to rebuild and what they have available to them. Defining those needs is the starting point for identifying the right post-release assistance and to create the structure for the service plan you will coordinate. 

Basic information about the client goes into the initial Casebook file. You can build on that with notes from your interviews. If you have set up a directory of providers within the program, you can enter them into the file as a workflow for the interventions you anticipate. 

Casebook provides organizations with the flexibility to configure it to suit their needs. Users can establish appropriate values for tracking legal factors for reentry. If the client has been sentenced to a period of probation or parole, you can maintain information about the requirements and the client’s compliance. This includes the assigned officer, when the client must report, and any other key information about terms and conditions of supervision. You can be a partner to the community probation or parole supervisor to support the client in making good choices and avoiding new offenses or technical violations that could return them to incarceration. 

Services Begin Before Re-Entry

Effective case management begins before release as a partnership between the facility, community supervision offices, and nonprofits like yours. The Urban Institute and National Institute of Corrections developed a “Transition from Jail-to-Community” (TJC) model. It is designed to ensure there is continuity of services between those the client received within the jail and those they receive in the community after release. 

The TJC model also encourages jurisdictions to develop a triage matrix, which categorizes clients based on risk to reoffend, offense type, length of stay, and disposition status (sentenced or pretrial), and indicates the appropriate treatment strategy for each type of client. Length of stay is particularly important as it determines which interventions can occur within the jail and which must occur in the community. The triage tells providers which clients will need the most intensive help for successful outcomes. 

The model recommends three components that should be present in any case plan: 

(1) interventions to be carried out while the client is in jail that prepare the individual for release 

(2) interventions that address the client’s immediate post-release needs at the time of discharge from jail

(3) interventions that address the longer term transitional period in the community. 

Specifying interventions aimed at each of these three stages are the map for maintaining the desired continuity of care. You can update the case plans you initially created in response to the client’s changing circumstances and needs.

Information Sharing

Providing effective continuity of care and case management depends on good communication among all of the service providers. The TJC approach recommends that the case plan and assessment be automated, and Casebook is well-suited to this recommendation. Your file simplifies the exchange of information. Email content, attachments, forms and notes from other providers can go directly into the file.

Not only does this ease your work to follow the client’s service history as it develops but you can share information with external resources. This prevents misunderstandings or gaps in knowledge that could hinder progress.

Flexibility in Data Management and Tracking

Casebook allows users to set up field values best suited to the type of services case managers deliver as well as those that other providers deliver to the same client. You can do more than track what your agency provides. You can enter information from other services, including the provider, service, dates of its interactions with the clients, and goals. Ultimately you can “close the loop” on a client’s outcomes for each incidence of assistance. 

For example, you could set up a workflow for helping your client improve their education and marketable skills. Your resource directory can list education resources; these could be colleges, vocational and trade schools, GED providers, tutoring programs, and sources of financial assistance such as scholarships and federal aid.  

You and your client can plan out several years of goals and steps to meet them. The steps can be as small or large as you want, depending on the client’s level of confidence and ability to pursue them. Either way, when you set them up you can check the workflow to know quickly where the client is in the plan and what needs to happen next.   

The amount of information you can record expands, as necessary. Casebook works as a collaborative notebook that contains it all. Most of the time you won’t want to scroll through a large file to find specific information. You can create filters to narrow your search to a snapshot of what you want.

Tracking Change for Good

Preventing your client’s recidivism can be complicated. Repeated or long-term incarceration generally reflects a pattern of poor choices. Research has shown that you can manage your resources for reentry programs most effectively when you focus on people who have criminogenic thinking, the factor that is most associated with reoffending. 

Your case management plan is a person-centered safety net made up of the array of help that matches a client’s needs. This means you must track a variety of services that can include social support, behavioral therapies, education, job training, and access to practical things such as income, health care, and housing. Casebook is your repository for everything you set up for your client’s success and your toolbox for guiding that success. 

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Maryellen Hess Cameron
Maryellen Hess Cameron spent over 25 years as the Executive Director of non-profit agencies in the social