June 24, 2019, Jensen Toussaint - Al Dia
For someone who has spent years behind bars, it can be very difficult to re-enter and become reacclimated into society.
It can be easy to revert back to the ways that initially caused the individual to become incarcerated, due primarily to be barriers that make reenter so difficult.
Recognizing this, judges of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania got together and developed a program to help ex-offenders reintegrate in society. In 2007, they officially launched the Supervision to Aid Reentry (STAR) program.
The program targets high-risk offenders coming home to Philadelphia who had served significant federal prison time. It’s an opt-in program, in which individuals returning from federal prison are given the option to participate in the reentry court. Services include tutoring programs, financial literacy, résumé writing, outreach, housing support, and help with family relationships.
“Coming home, we found it’s particularly difficult,” the Honorable Judge Felipe Restrepo said. “A lot of folks have a real difficult transition reestablishing their relationships with their children, and we’ve been trying very hard to work on solutions for that particular problem.”
As an additional incentive to joining the program, if a participant successfully completes 52 weeks of supervision in the reentry court, their supervision could be reduced by up to a full year.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing we do is establish this sense of community, and a sense of accomplishment,” said Judge Restrepo. “A lot of these folks have never been given any sort of positive reaffirmation.”
The recidivism rate for graduates is less than 10 percent, while for individuals not in reentry, the recidivism rate is north of 40 percent. Nationally, the recidivism rate is at 68 percent.
With these numbers, the model for this program has since been used in many other jurisdictions across the United States.