The Evolution of Probation: Community-Based Reentry Services

Probation, Probation, Community Corrections

November 30, 2021

Over the past few decades, political, social, economic, and technological changes have impacted the role of probation within the Criminal Justice System. These same changes have brought about questions regarding recidivism rates as to people returning to communities from prison and success rates during probation. In this paper I will focus on reentry into the community and discuss how community-based alternatives to probation for justice-involved adults lower recidivism rates.

Community-based reentry services have an essential role in serving individuals who are currently or formerly involved with the criminal justice system. They are dedicated to assisting individuals who are re-integrating into the community following release from incarceration, including efforts to prevent further criminal justice system involvement. An increased participation and utilization of community-based reentry services serves as a greater role for success for the justice impacted population over government sanctioned probation services.

A study conducted by the National Institute of Justice (2018) showed that in 2016 alone, there were over 1.5 million people in the county, state, and federal prisons in the United States. However, close to 95% of this population will return to their community. However, most of those released from prison often return to prison for a myriad of reasons within the first three years of their release (Doleac, 2018). As justice impacted individuals transition from life in prison to life in the community, it is critical to understand the importance of this transition for their success as well as their families, and its implications for public safety.

Community Reentry Services provide returning citizens much needed mentoring, and help with education, housing, social interaction, employment and reconnecting with family members and children (Evolution Reentry Services 2021). These are services that often the State and Federal Department of Probations do not have the resources to offer due to case overload, budget cuts and lack of education and training.

In most communities, justice impacted individuals often undergo a lot of psychological stress and isolation due to stigmatization, which causes many to recidivate back to their old activities. Mentors are an important part of the reentry process because they offer moral support and guidance to help with surviving outside the prison walls (Stoddard, 2017). Mentors help with keeping appointments, classes, and other everyday activities that shape them into meaningful people in society. They also help these people keep connections and networks of relations with their families and their communities. Mentors also help to educate society on how to help returning citizens become useful people because it is for their good and the safety of society. Such mentoring programs that encompass the community and the inmates are essential in reducing stigma.

According to Stoddard (2017), mentoring is one of the key interventions in the criminal justice system used in reintegrating justice impacted individuals into society. It is a social program that uses community volunteers to offer several care services to people returning. Mentoring is a key component that used extensively by community reentry programs because, unlike probation where this population meets with the professional probation officers, the mentors and the mentee have higher contact time that creates a connection that the mentee can share their problems comfortably and find solutions to the issues to help them move on with their lives (Stoddard, 2017).

Mentoring is essential, especially for women inmates, whereby receiving moral support from other women in the community has proven essential in helping women in transitioning from prison to the community to cope with life challenges specific to women when returning from the prison. One of the main community reentry programs proves this true.  It is the work-driven social responsibility (WSR) program used by the state of Michigan to help released women meet their reentry goals. A study conducted by Stoddard (2017) showed that the number of hours that the mentors spent with their mentees was pertinent in determining reentry goals. The findings of this study revealed that mentoring is an important community intervention mechanism that is promising in ensuring effective reentry of former inmates back to the community.

            One of the main challenges affecting the successful back to the community is employment issues. Many people with a blemished record find it difficult to secure employment due to their past criminal records. Research conducted by Solomon et al. (2004) revealed a close correlation between work and crime. Securing a legitimate job reduces the chances of released individuals involving themselves in criminal activities that may lead to past criminal behavior. Despite the increased vocational training conducted in prison facilities, many released people still find it difficult to find employment. One of the reasons for lack of employment among justice impacted individuals just returning home is that they are not engaged in any meaningful work experience while in prison (Solomon et al., 2004). Also, many of the issues experienced by people released to the community include employers’ reluctance to hire people who have been convicted of a crime compared to other groups in the community is because of their criminal records.

Another major issue affecting the successful reintegration of this population that community-based reentry programs help with is securing housing and transportation which is one of the major criteria that released inmates must do (Stoddard, 2017). Housing becomes a challenge for several reasons, including a lack of financial resources to rent a place to live. In many instances people returning from prison are rejected by their families and with a lack of resources to secure a place to live, many will engage in criminal activities to survive.

Due to these social, economic, political, and technological changes, there has been a shifting impact on recidivism of released offenders when using community reentry services compared to governmental probation services. In most instances, inmates placed on probation must fulfill many requirements and rules. Most of them cannot adhere to these rules, resulting in the revocation of the probation period. Such strict supervision by probation officers has been linked with the high recidivism rates among returning citizens, especially during the first three years of their release back to the community. The first three years of release are the most integral and yet difficult as it is a determining factor whether the individual will successfully reintegrate back to the community or not. A study conducted by Doleac (2018) reveals that nonprofit and government organizations have tried many programs to help reintegrate people from prison back to the community, but most of these programs were not successful in reducing the crime issue. Doleac (2018) asserts that one of the keyways of improving the lives of formerly incarcerated people is to reduce the intensity of supervision probation because it does not only give the people the ability to make their own decisions and helps the government in saving a lot of costs.


Released inmates often find it difficult to cope with life’s challenges outside the prison walls, forcing some of them to commit new offenses or repeat their past offenses resulting in their incarceration. Some of the key issues attributed to the high recidivism rates among former offenders include lack of secure employment opportunities, lack of housing, education, rejection by families, addiction to substance abuse, and psychological stresses, among others. Probation services where returning citizens are under strict supervision from local and federal government employed probation officers are unsuccessful in tackling these many issues. Despite probation using many resources to help in reintegration, probation showed minimal impact regarding reducing recidivism that is key to successful reintegration. Today, the government is working in collaboration with community reentry programs throughout the country due to the success rates. Thus, community-based reentry programs have proved to be a promising strategy to justice impacted individuals back to society and help them become successful in their lives.


Benecchi, L. (2021, August 8). Recidivism imprisons american progress. Harvard Political Review. Retrieved December 3, 2021, from

Doleac, J. L. (2018, July 2). Study after study shows ex-prisoners would be better off without intense supervision. Brookings. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from

Evolution reentry services, LLC. Evolution Reentry Services LLC. (2021). Retrieved December 4, 2021, from

National Institute of Justice. (n.d.). An overview of offender reentry – office of justice programs. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from

Solomon, A. L., Waul, M., Van Ness, A., & Travis, J. (2004, January 27). Outside the walls: A national snapshot of community-based prisoner reentry programs. Urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from

Stoddard, R. R. (2017, June 13). Recently released women’s time spent ..scholarworks@gvsu. Grand Valley State University. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from

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