Projects: Reentry Is Relational

The Family Justice Program’s Reentry Is Relational project trained participating staff at two prisons in New Mexico and Oklahoma, and at their corresponding probation and parole offices, to help incarcerated people draw on their social networks as they transition from prison to parole. By enhancing case management practices at the facilities and promoting more collaboration between prison and parole staff, the project had the goal of improving reentry outcomes for people coming home from prison. To sustain changes in practices and policies, the initiative also provided these institutions with technical assistance and evaluation support.

Project staff worked with partner agencies to make case management and reentry planning family-focused and to tailor such plans to the returning individuals’ strengths. The training involved several tools and methods, including a list of questions called the Relational Inquiry Tool. The tool has been shown to be effective in helping incarcerated people maintain positive connections to their families and communities, leading to better overall release planning. The project ended in December 2010 and was supported by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The project's partners, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and the New Mexico Corrections Department, were selected through a competitive search process.

  • Project staff worked in Oklahoma with staff from the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, a women’s prison in the town of McCloud, and probation and parole officers at the Central District Probation and Parole office in Oklahoma City, to integrate the Family Justice tools and methodologies into all aspects of the reentry process.
  • In 2008, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's task force on prison reform called for strengthening partnerships between corrections and community corrections, involving families and social networks in reentry planning, and providing community-based services for people returning from prison and their families. Reentry Is Relational staff helped implement some of those recommendations at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas and at an Albuquerque-area probation and parole office.

Why Does This Work Matter?

The vast majority of people leaving prison will serve a term of probation or parole. Their success in returning home can be greatly enhanced if they have the support of family members and when community corrections officers draw on an individual’s strengths and motivation. Research shows that such positive reinforcement is key to improving behavior. Corrections and community corrections staff who consider people in the context of their families and social networks better understand both their challenges and the resources available to help them to make the reentry process successful. 

For more information, contact Margaret diZerega.

Piloting a tool for reentry: a promising approach to engaging family members
Research shows that incarcerated individuals who maintain contact with supportive family members have better outcomes—such as stable housing and employment—when they return to the community. Yet many people who work in corrections do not know how to help individuals on their caseload draw on these...
Posted by
  • Expert profile


April marked the national rollout of the Family-Youth Initiative (FYI). FYI is a joint project of the Vera Institute of Justice and the Performance-based Standards Learning Institute (PbSLi) that sets standards for juvenile justice agencies on...