Legislature considering Reentry Courts: What are they?

The Mississippi legislature is currently considering a measure that would allow the creation of Reentry Courts in Mississippi. The bill, SB 2584, is titled the Reentry Court Act of 2022 and would allow for the creation of pilot projects throughout the state.

What Are Reentry Courts?

Many people are familiar with Drug Courts, a concept popularized in the 1990s as a way to address problems associated with addiction.

Reentry Courts build on the Drug Court model, which has proven effective at addressing the underlying issues that contribute to an individual’s criminal behavior. These alternative judicial models are sometimes referred to as “problem-solving courts” and can include mental health courts, veterans courts, and others.

The focus of these models is to address underlying issues on an individual basis. Whereas the traditional court system generally imposes only punitive sanctions related to incarceration, problem solving courts connect participants with rehabilitative services, employment, and other resources aimed at addressing their underlying issues.  These models have proven to produce significant tax savings through reduced incarceration rates.

Reentry Courts are aimed at supporting public safety by addressing individuals who have been convicted of multiple offenses and are caught up in a cycle of crime and incarceration. While drug court can be an effective tool for those struggling with addiction, reentry courts can address those who might not have a substance use problem, but are at risk of re-offending.

The current bill being considered by the legislator would allow local judges to establish Reentry Courts in their discretion. It excludes those charged with a violent crime from participating. Once an individual is sentenced to the Reentry Court, the judge can require particpants to attend a monthly court meeting, submit to drug tests, and maintain gainful employment.

This model allows individuals to enter the workforce, pay off any fees or fines they owe, and establish themselves as a taxpaying member of the community under the supervision of the court. Reentry Courts allow individuals to earn an income to support themselves and the services of the court, as opposed to incarceration which destroys employment prospects.

While incarceration is a net drain on tax dollars, Reentry Courts can be a net positive, creating more taxpaying members of the workforce while supporting public safety.

SB 2584 is currently awaiting action by the Mississippi Senate, which has the option of inviting conference and working with the House of Representatives to draft a final version for approval by the legislature.