"Smart Justice" Plan Focus of Re-Entry Council
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
November 25, 2009

For the past year more than 100 stakeholders from the criminal justice community have worked through the Bexar County Re-Entry Council, one of only four re-entry councils in Texas, to develop strategies that would improve public safety by reducing recidivism (81 percent of our inmates are returnees) among inmates being released from jail or prison. The deliberations of the Council have resulted in the "Smart Justice" agenda, which members of the Council and I released on Thursday.

The goals of the "Smart Justice" agenda are to result in the transformation of the formerly incarcerated person into a productive citizen who will not re-offend. This is accomplished by creating a system where former inmates can easily identify and have access to employment, housing, continued substance abuse and/or mental health treatment and other mentoring services.

The intent of the Re-Entry Council is to improve public safety by reducing recidivism and to improve the County's bottom line by reducing jail costs. When these ‘Smart Justice' strategies are implemented, they will revolutionize the criminal justice system by making it more cost-effective, proactive and accountable.

The "Smart Justice" strategies are:

  1. Create a One-Stop Shop/Day Reporting Center for Offender Services.
  2. Develop and implement a Re-Entry Court.
  3. Develop and implement a Veterans Court.
  4. Develop and implement a Restorative Justice Pilot Program.
  5. Partner with the state-level Re-Entry Council.
  6. Implement an evidence based discharge plan for persons leaving the Bexar County Jail, to include a link between jail staff and external agencies.
  7. Encourage Bexar County Commissioners to consider preference points in awarding contracts to companies that hire ex-offenders.
  8. Create a resource directory for offenders.
  9. Promote affordable housing and support transitional living options.
  10. Partner with post-release programs that support job readiness, talent assessment and employment for the formerly incarcerated.

Bexar County Re-Entry Council — one of four of its kind in Texas — was formed to create a local think tank and working group devoted to the successful re-entry of offenders back into the community. In that time, the Council has reviewed statistics from the Bexar County Jail as well as the state and federal prison systems in an effort to determine the needs of the populations they serve. The Council also has enlisted the help of ex-offenders in discussions about best practices that would support their success.

These ten strategies of the "Smart Justice" agenda form the crux of the Re-Entry Council's "to do list" for the upcoming calendar year. The success of these strategies will be measured by intensive data collection and analysis. Performance measures will focus on recidivism, treatment compliance and successful job and housing placement.

The Re-Entry Council has set a very ambitious agenda for itself, but it is absolutely something we must do as a community because our overcrowded jail is not a problem that we can build our way out of.

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