Incentives for Change

The key actors involved in successful reentry respond to various incentives to act, often dictated by the systems in which they work. Some of the incentives to act are compatible across systems, such as compliance with governmental regulations.

Incentives for Change

The key actors involved in successful reentry respond to various incentives to act, often dictated by the systems in which they work. Some of the incentives to act are compatible across systems, such as compliance with governmental regulations.

However, in other cases, systems offer incentives that are incompatible with one another. For example, in the corrections system, ensuring safety and security within the facility is sometimes incompatible with the education or health care system’s need to convene groups of incarcerated individuals in program and classroom settings.

Likewise, system incentives are often incompatible with incentives for individuals involved in the criminal justice system. For example, a prosecutor may be incentivized to secure long sentences and to require those convicted to serve the maximum amount of time possible. However, reductions in the amount of time individuals serve is a compelling incentive for them to participate in programs offered inside correctional facilities.

Reconciling conflicting individual and systems incentives is a critical challenge that begins with an acknowledgement that multiple incentives across many systems are likely needed to facilitate action with all the key actors. The Reentry Ready project stakeholders identified individuals and systems designed to address the cultural, operational, and other system-performance outcomes—related to the reentry success strategies they developed. While these incentives are not all inclusive—meaning they do not address all the possible incentives that may motivate all systems actors—the stakeholders believe these incentives would lay an important foundation and catalyze action among some key reentry actors.

Incentives for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals

Too often currently and formerly incarcerated individuals are not afforded agency when consequential decisions are being made about their lives. As noted in one of the Reentry Ready project principles, active and authentic participation in the decisions that affect their lives is critical to the reentry success of formerly incarcerated individuals. Additional incentives that key actors and systems can offer adhere to this principle.

These include:

  • Positive reinforcement to an incarcerated individual who effectively uses services offered to meet his or her identified needs
  • Reduced sentences or time under supervision for an incarcerated individual’s participation in programs aimed at meeting the individual’s reentry needs
  • Opportunity to achieve GED and other credentials during incarceration, thereby positioning the individual for employment and other liberties upon release and during reintegration
  • Improved self-efficacy as individuals pursue and meet personal goals

Incentives for incarceration and reentry systems

Multiple overlapping systems have an investment in and responsibility for reentry outcomes. The incentives to motivate system actors and processes often overlap; however, systems have a number of specific incentives for collaboration:

  • Improved outcomes for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals. Stakeholders affirmed that incarceration and reentry systems too often contribute to poor outcomes by not providing quality programming, in enough quantity to achieve better outcomes. Stakeholders agreed that all systems and actors have an interest in improving outcomes.
  • Compliance with external mandates for collaboration. Incarceration and reentry systems that operate in receivership or some other sanction-based external supervision are more sensitive to efforts to improve system operations and outcomes.
  • Improved outcomes in performance-based contracting environments. When funding and other support for systems are contingent upon meeting performance benchmarks, systems and actors are highly motivated to implement effective programs. Additionally, by implementing effective strategies, systems are more likely to be in compliance with accreditation requirements.
  • Increased reinvestment into multiple systems. When systems can achieve better outcomes and generate cost savings, a powerful incentive is the ability to reinvest those savings back into the system.
  • Improved response to crises and negative events. All systems actors are highly motivated to avoid or improve responses to dangerous and harmful events inside correctional facilities. Avoiding negative incidents and ensuring public safety is also an incentive when an individual returns to the community. Crisis situations and negative events can be used to study and address any vulnerabilities in system responses.
  • Increased job satisfaction of criminal justice staff. Stakeholders assert that criminal justice staff report increases in job satisfaction when they are a part of programs and services that improve outcomes for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals. Correctional officers are especially sensitive to this incentive as it can help to reduce the stress and anxiety of always being in an enforcement role. Tying improved outcomes for justice involved individuals to pay increases or promotions for criminal justice staff have also been shown to be powerful incentives for change.
  • Positive media coverage. More favorable media coverage and improved public perception of the system can help to build public will and political support for investments in reentry systems and criminal justice staff. Strategies in Practice that improve public perception of criminal justice system and the staffs are also related to increased job satisfaction among criminal justice staff.
  • Improved opportunities to attract philanthropic and other private investment capital to fund innovative programs and systems. When systems are performing well and achieving better outcomes, they are more likely to be able to secure additional support from public and private funding sources.
  • While not a system per se, the business community and private investors (for example, landlords) can benefit from financial incentives, such as tax credits, when they hire or rent to formerly incarcerated individuals.

Convergence Center for Policy Resolution is a national non-profit based in Washington, DC that convenes individuals and organizations with divergent views to build trust, identify solutions, and form alliances for action on issues of critical public concern. Reports and recommendations issued under our auspices reflect the views of the individuals and organizations who put the ideas forward. Convergence itself remains neutral and does not endorse or take positions on recommendations of its stakeholders.

Convergence Center for Policy Resolution
1133 19th Street NW, Suite 410
Washington, DC | 20036
202 830 2310

www.convergencepolicy.org

Convergence Center for Policy Resolution is a national non-profit based in Washington, DC that convenes individuals and organizations with divergent views to build trust, identify solutions, and form alliances for action on issues of critical public concern. Reports and recommendations issued under our auspices reflect the views of the individuals and organizations who put the ideas forward. Convergence itself remains neutral and does not endorse or take positions on recommendations of its stakeholders.

Convergence Center for Policy Resolution
1133 19th Street NW, Suite 410
Washington, DC | 20036
202 830 2310

www.convergencepolicy.org