The following is a book review by Russ Immarigeon, Corrections & Mental Health editor. Reentry planning for offenders with mental disorders: Policy and practice, edited by Henry A. Dlugacz, Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute, 2010, 375 pp., ISBN 1-887554-75-0
The “reentry movement” of recent years can really be connected with two larger movements, the so-called “alternatives to incarceration” movement that started in earnest in the late 1960s, and the “tough on crime” movement that began shortly thereafter.
In the first, the emerging sentiment was critical of the general use of incarceration, which was overused in the hearts and minds of many. The so-called alternative sentences of the time were primarily programs and services that addressed basic offender needs and troubles. By the mid-1970s, community service and restitution were among frequently petitioned alternatives. If memory serves, the term “diversion” was also in widespread, or at least increased, use in those days, especially with reference to pretrial (diversion) programming. Clearly, advocates of these alternatives believed that they should replace or reduce the use of imprisonment for the persons subject to them. In other words, these options, including such sanctions as community service and restitution, were meant for offenders who otherwise would have been incarcerated.
Soon enough, other advocates began to mobilize on behalf of stiffer sanctions. The “get tough” era that emerged from this perspective started, rather successfully, to rely on longer sentences, mandatory sentences, and punitive sentences that increased the use of incarceration. For three decades now, and maybe more, prison crowding has been common practice, and states and counties have scurried to keep pace with new jail and prison construction. Then our current fiscal difficulties settled in, and the acceleration of jail and prison use slowed down, at least marginally, and other options were sought, mostly at the backend of the criminal justice system, once prisoners were released either earlier-than-planned or on scheduled parole or once “maxed out.”
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