The Northern District of California started its Reentry Court in March 2011. The program is intended for high-risk offenders who have a documented history of substance abuse. Successful completion of reentry court requires at least one year. Offenders who successfully complete the program receive twelve months off their term of supervised release or probation.
The goal of the court is to decrease recidivism by combining more intensive supervision with improved access to counseling and treatment. The Reentry Court Team is comprised of a magistrate judge, a probation officer, an Assistant U. S. Attorney, and an Assistant Federal Public Defender. The team works collaboratively to devise appropriate incentives for positive behavior and appropriate sanctions for negative behavior by program participants. For example, a participant who obtains and retains a job and is functioning well in other aspects of his or her life might have the intrusiveness of supervision (such as frequency of counseling sessions or drug testing) decreased. On the other hand, a participant who fails a drug test might be required to live in a halfway house for a period of time and have progression through the program delayed, requiring the participant to spend more than a year in the program in order to graduate. Chronic and/or more serious violations can result in the offender being sent to jail for up to a week while still remaining in the program. Rewards and sanctions are imposed immediately, for maximum effect and to encourage accountability. More serious violations can result in the participant being removed from the program and sent back before the original sentencing judge for adjudication of the violation.
The program began with ten participants. Seven of those participants are on track to graduate on time in March 2012. Each of these participants has made substantial steps forward with their lives while participating in the program, such as remaining drug-free after lengthy histories of chronic drug abuse, obtaining and flourishing in jobs, attending school after long absences from the educational system, and other accomplishments. An eighth participant is also progressing toward graduation but has had his progress delayed by a positive drug test, which will require that he spend more time in the program in order to graduate. Two of the original participants were removed from the program and sentenced to prison terms of six months and two months, respectively, after they committed violations that the Reentry Court Team deemed sufficiently serious to warrant separation from the program.
Reentry is an important component in an overall strategy to reduce violent crime. The Federal Interagency Reentry Council has launched its official website. In January 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder convened the inaugural meeting of the Interagency Reentry Council. The Reentry Council is comprised of Cabinet secretaries and other top Administration officials and staffed by personnel from 18 federal agencies. The Reentry Council is working together to increase public safety, assist those returning from prison and jail in becoming productive citizens, and save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration. The new website includes information about the Council's goals and composition, and includes a set of "Reentry MythBusters," one pagers designed to clarify existing federal policies that affect formerly incarcerated individuals and their families.