The Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) was a collaborative Federal effort that concentrated on improving criminal justice, employment, education, health, and housing outcomes of adult and juvenile offenders on their release from incarceration. In total, 69 State and community agencies received funding through SVORI to facilitate the reentry and reintegration of offenders.
The goals of SVORI included:
- Improving the quality of life and self-sufficiency of returning offenders through employment, housing, family, and community involvement
- Improving health by addressing substance use (sobriety and relapse prevention) as well as physical and mental health
- Reducing criminality through supervision and monitoring noncompliance, rearrest, and reincarceration
- Achieving systems change through multi-agency collaboration and case management strategies [Lattimore et al. 2004, 2]
SVORI targeted serious and violent offenders who were more likely to pose a risk to the community upon release from incarceration and who faced multiple challenges during reentry. Both male and female and adult and juvenile offenders were eligible to participate, but participants had to be under 35. Other participation eligibility criteria varied by program site.
The 69 SVORI grantees operated 88 distinct reentry programs. Of those programs, 35 targeted adults only, 34 targeted juveniles only, 2 targeted youthful offenders only, and 17 targeted some combination of adults, juveniles, and youthful offenders. In addition, 71 programs targeted males and females, 16 targeted males only, and 1 targeted females only.
Research has shown that reentry programs can serve as an important transition between incarceration and returning to the community, and that providing comprehensive and coordinated reentry services based on the needs and assessed risks for offenders on their release from prison can improve postrelease outcomes. Reentry specialists have encouraged a broad focus on reintegration services, rather than single-emphasis programs, to address the multiple issues that confront offenders on release from prison, such as mental health and substance use problems. In addition, studies have shown that reentry programs can be effective when they concentrate on high-risk (or higher risk) offenders and when services are tailored to address the risks and needs of offenders (Taxman, Young, and Byrne 2002).
SVORI began as a response to this emerging research. With the number of prisoners released from Federal and State prisons growing every year (Sabol, West, and Cooper 2009), the initiative was developed to respond to the complex issues that face high-risk (serious and violent) offenders during reentry.
The objective of SVORI was to enhance the provision of reentry services. This concept was an essential part of the underlying logic model, which was developed to provide guidance during the evaluation of the initiative. In the logic model, inputs were identified as SVORI funding, technical assistance, and requirements, which in combination with the local resources provided by each site (the throughputs) would result in a set of services and programming (the outputs) that were expected to improve the outcomes for SVORI participants. Characteristics of the community and of the individual participants were expected to influence the throughputs, outputs, and outcomes.
SVORI was an outcome- or goal-oriented initiative because there were specific outcomes or goals that local programs needed to achieve through the services provided to offenders released from prison. The services were to be provided through a three-phase continuum that began while offenders were incarcerated, intensified in the months before and after their release from prison, and continued for several years postrelease. SVORI grantees were expected to establish partnerships with other State agencies and community-based organizations to develop the continuum of services. Local programs were encouraged to include the following components:
- Diagnostic and risk assessments
- Individual reentry plans
- Transition teams
- Community resources
- Graduated levels of supervision and sanctions
Although all programs receiving SVORI funding shared common goals and outcomes, the structure and implementation of enhanced reentry services offered by the community programs varied substantially by site. Programs differed in terms of what services were being provided, when they were provided, and to whom they were provided. Programs were designed along a variety of dimensions, including the types of services offered, the focus on prerelease and postrelease treatment, and the types of offenders to be served.
For instance, when looking at aggregate-level data collected from program sites, that included document reviews, telephone interviews, and site visits, most of the programs looked to provide a wide range of services to SVORI participants. Over 90 percent of programs were expected to provide risk or needs assessment, case management, treatment plan development, substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling before and following release from prison (Lattimore et al. 2004). However, delivery of these services differed from site to site.
An implementation assessment was conducted to determine the extent to which SVORI programs were increasing access to reentry services to program participants (Lattimore and Visher 2009). SVORI program participants were asked about their service needs and service receipts across several service domains. For adult males and females, the results showed that SVORI respondents were more likely than non–SVORI respondents to receive most of the services that were asked about, although receipt of services declined over time and service receipt was usually lower than respondents’ expressed need. For juvenile respondents, however, there were few differences between SVORI and non–SVORI respondents on reported needs and receipt of services. An interview of SVORI program directors also found that participants were more likely than nonparticipants to receive services, although there was variability in the services provided and the proportion of eligible offenders who received those services (Winterfield et al. 2006).
14 to 35
Lattimore and Visher (2009) found that the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) significantly increased access to a variety of services for program participants. However, the results suggest that the number of participants who reported receiving services was smaller than the number of participants who reported needing the services.
The overall results of the impact evaluation did not show many significant differences between SVORI participants and non–SVORI participants using measures of housing, substance use, and criminal behavior/recidivism for adult male and female offenders and juvenile male offenders.
Adult Male Offenders
The results showed that SVORI programming had no significant effect on postrelease housing experiences. Employment outcomes showed only a few significant differences between SVORI and non–SVORI participants. At the 3- and 15-month postrelease points, SVORI participants were more likely to report they were supporting themselves with a job than non–SVORI participants. They were also more likely to have secured jobs that provided formal pay and benefits.
With regard to substance use, fewer than 50 percent of both groups had been abstinent during the past 30 days at the 15-month point. Although the SVORI group had lower rates of self-reported substance use or confirmed drug use (by drug tests) at all follow-up periods, most of these differences were not statistically significant. SVORI participants were significantly less likely to self-report drug use during the past 30 days at the 9-month postrelease point compared with non–SVORI participants, and less likely to self-report drug use at the 15-month point.
With regard to criminal behavior/recidivism, the only significant difference between the groups on self-reported recidivism measures was that SVORI participants were more likely to report compliance with the conditions of their supervision at 15 months. Although the SVORI group had lower rearrest rates then the non–SVORI group at all follow-up points, the differences were not statistically significant. The results also showed that SVORI participants were just as likely as non–SVORI participants to be reincarcerated.
Adult Female Offenders
There were no significant differences between female SVORI participants and non–SVORI participants on postrelease housing experiences. SVORI participants were significantly more likely to report receiving formal pay for their job at all the follow-up points. At 15-months postrelease, SVORI participants were also significantly more likely to report having supported themselves with a job and having worked significantly more months since the last interview compared with non–SVORI participants.
The substance use outcomes suggested that for both groups there was an increase in the use of drugs over time. Although the SVORI group generally self-reported less drug use then the non–SVORI group, the differences were not statistically significant.
There were statistically significant differences between the groups on self-reported criminal behavior only with a few measures. SVORI participants were significantly less likely to self-report perpetration of violence and violent/armed crimes. Criminal recidivism measures based on official records showed that SVORI participants were also significantly less likely to be rearrested within the 9-, 12-, and 15-month postrelease periods. However, SVORI participants were significantly more likely to be reincarcerated within 12 and 15 months postrelease. The outcome result of reincarceration rates is confusing given the outcome result of rearrest rates. The evaluation did not yield an explanation for these differing results.
Juvenile Male Offenders
SVORI juvenile male participants were significantly less likely than non–SVORI participants to have achieved housing independence at the 15-month follow-up point. There were no significant differences between the groups on other measures of housing experience. There were only a few significant differences between the groups on measures of employment. SVORI participants were significantly more likely to report receiving formal pay at the 9-month postrelease point and significantly more likely to report that their job offered benefits at 15 months postrelease.
There were no significant differences between SVORI and non–SVORI participants on self-reported substance use or positive drug tests. The outcome results indicated that the proportions of both groups who reported drug use and who tested positive increase over time.
There were also no significant differences between the two groups on self-reported criminal behavior/recidivism. The outcome results of criminal recidivism measures from official records were not yet available at the time the evaluation was published.