Louisiana Reentry Court Promotes Seamless Transition between Sentencing, Incarceration and Post Release Services – Some Potential Exportable Elements
5 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2017 Last revised: 22 Mar 2017
Date Written: February 15, 2017
This article describes a reentry court program with a number of unusual and “exportable” features that was first established in Louisiana’s 22nd Judicial District (St. Tammany and Washington Parishes) and now being implemented statewide. Under the leadership of Judge William Knight, the program targets “high risk/high needs” offenders with multiple prior felony convictions for nonviolent property and substance abuse offenses who often face prison sentences of 10-25 years but, pursuant to specially enacted legislation, are released after serving two years in prison to then participate in the community-based reentry court program. Among the program’s noteworthy features include: (1) the use of “split sentencing” permitting the sentencing judge to retain jurisdiction following prison release, with the sentencing judge also serving as the reentry court judge retaining supervision authority and ability to support the defendant’s efforts to achieve post-release program goals; (2) seamless transition from institutional confinement to community based services, with the defendant being brought to the court and the sentencing/reentry judge upon release; (3) continuity of the participant/case management relationship from sentencing through incarceration with regular visits of the case manager while he/she is incarcerated; (4) on-going multi-agency collaboration to provide the sentencing, service delivery and supervisory framework for the program; (5) public/private partnerships to promote a continuum of care starting at sentencing through program completion and aftercare, including housing, education, job training, job placement, and family/community support; and (6) regular status hearings conducted by the sentencing/reentry court judge at the prison during the period of incarceration to establish clear expectations for the participant while he or she is incarcerated and to solidify the connection and relationships between the court and the participant prior to release.
Keywords: therapeutic jurisprudence, sentencing, corrections, probation, reentry court, split sentencing, procedural justice
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