Across the United States, decades of effort to “get tough on crime” through increasingly strict sentencing laws, prison conditions, and parole rules have produced the highest incarceration rates in U.S. history. Since very few prisoners serve life sentences, these policies have also led to the highest prison release rates in history. The rising rate of prison releases strains law enforcement, social service, health, and housing resources at the community level, and creates serious problems for ex-offenders seeking to re-integrate into society. More than 60% of released inmates are rearrested within three years.

More than 90% of all prisoners in the U.S. are in state prisons and state officials have become increasingly concerned about the cycle of imprisonment, release, and recidivism. In 2001, the Council of State Governments, a leading national organization of elected state officials, launched a national Ex-Offender Re-Entry Policy Council. The Council sought to develop bipartisan consensus on policies and principles that would enable state and local government officials to meet the re-integration needs of ex-offenders, while ensuring public safety and balancing the needs of ex-offenders with others. The Council established three Advisory Groups: criminal justice and law enforcement, job training and employment, and health and housing services. The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) contracted CBI to facilitate the work of the Health and Housing Advisory Group.

This Advisory Group’s diverse members included Arizona and Kansas state legislators responsible for criminal justice and corrections legislation; several state and county corrections officials; leaders of state, local and non-profit mental health, public health, and public housing organizations; an ex-offender who lead a nationally recognized reintegration program in New York state; a victims’ rights advocate; and several researchers. All were selected because of their innovative work on re-entry issues.


CBI assesses the Advisory Group's background and expertise, and designs and facilitates the Health and Housing Advisory Group meeting in Washington, D.C.

In preparation for the Advisory Group's first meeting, CBI interviewed group members to assess their experience and background in ex-offender re-entry and discuss the group’s goals. Drawing on the interview results, CBI planned a day-and-a-half meeting in Washington, D.C., working collaboratively with group members to establish ground rules and develop the meeting agenda.

CBI then facilitated the Advisory Group meeting, assisting the group in setting priorities for discussion and leading participants through an overview of the re-entry process — from sentencing and incarceration to pre-release planning, release, linkage with health and housing services, and stabilization of services. CBI also helped the group plan joint-fact finding projects to further their understanding of health and housing-related problems for ex-offenders and to develop potential solutions.


CBI helps the Advisory Group effectively explore important initiatives and plan future joint-fact finding exercises; the success of the meeting encourages the Council of State Governments to fund two further meetings.

With CBI’s support, the Health and Housing Advisory Group explored a number of strong initiatives pioneered by group members and laid plans for future joint-fact finding efforts. Based on the success of the Advisory Group meeting, the Council of State Governments decided to pursue additional funding for two more meetings to further refine recommendations on policy principles and strategies, identify promising programs, and ultimately draft a policy report to the Council of State Governments.