Well-intentioned criminal justice reformers have been talking about reducing recidivism for years. But, with few exceptions, recidivism rates just don’t seem to go down.
With some 1200 released citizens returning to its streets each year, the City of New Haven, Connecticut got tired of waiting for a pre-packaged solution to the recidivism problem.
Spurred by an offer of assistance from the staff of Reentry Central and the Connecticut Center for Social Innovation, Dr. Martha Okafor, the city’s community services administrator, convened a meeting in January 2015 with staff members of Reentry Central and the Connecticut Center, together with Clifton Graves, New Haven’s reentry coordinator. The synergy worked, and the group decided to aggressively pursue a solution.
Dr. Okafor, known in New Haven for her get-it-done modus operandi, quickly assembled an impressive team, which included New Haven’s Mayor, Toni Harp, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Corrections, Scott Semple, and more than forty cooperating reentry service and healthcare organizations in New Haven.
Over the next eight months, the city convened weekly meetings to redesign and implement a new kind of recidivism-reduction strategy. Often cited locally as a “national first” in recidivism-reduction planning, the New Haven program embodied a series of game-changing protocols and progressive data collection commitments. The combination of these ingredients resulted in the award of a $1 million BJA grant to implement the program, to be known as the “Fresh Start” initiative.
Core to the Fresh Start design was a list of key assumptions and must-do protocols. Eventually dubbed the “New Haven Protocols,” the list included the following:
1. City governments have a duty to serve all city citizens, whether incarcerated or not.
2. Reentry services should begin at the time of sentencing, should continue while the individual is in prison, and continue for as long as necessary.
3. Formerly incarcerated individuals should be core participants in the development of services to be offered.
4. Reentry services should be undertaken by collaborative efforts of all of the city’s reentry providers working in concert, not just in silos. Case files should be shared on a HIPAA compliant data network so that all servicers working with a particular client would not need to duplicate data entry, nor be excluded from data which would contribute to effective case management.
5. Quality data should be collected from the outset, with careful attention to specific data definitions and metrics so that the products of predictive data analytics can eventually be made available nationally to professionals in other jurisdictions.
The New Haven grant for $1,000,000 was one of five demonstration grants announced in early October 2015 by BJA. The other four awardees were the Alameda County Probation Department ($999,168), the City of Indianapolis ($773,068), the Seattle Police Department ($997,210), and the City of New Orleans ($824,665).
Further information about the New Haven Fresh Start Initiative is available from Beatrice Codianni, Reentry Central. Managing Editor, (email@example.com 203 468-6589). Information about data to be collected and analyzed can be obtained when available from Dr. Sandy Martin, the Connecticut Center for Social Innovation Inc. (firstname.lastname@example.org 203 468-8379).