Research shows that “re-entry” services for offenders can ease their transition from jail to the community – and significantly reduce their likelihood of returning to jail.

To share the latest on what services work best, the Orange County Corrections Department and UCF’s Department of Criminal Justice recently held a daylong workshop for community members who work closely with offenders.

About 90 members of corrections departments, faith-based organizations and behavioral health care providers participated in the event, held June 13 at the Criminal Justice Institute at Valencia College in Orlando.

“One of our goals was to introduce to the community the value of using services shown scientifically to be effective,” said Professor Roberto Hugh Potter, the workshop coordinator and research director for the department. “These are known as ‘evidence-based practices.'”

Potter also wanted the participants to learn about a Transition from Jail to Community model that many Central Florida counties are adopting. One of its developers, Jesse Jannetta with the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., traveled to Orlando to speak to the group.

A key feature of the model, said Jannetta, is using evidence-based practices to assess an offender’s risk of re-offending and then using this assessment to link the offender to services in the community that address his or her specific needs.

The need to maintain these interventions in the community is critical, he added.

Potter built on Jannetta’s presentation by describing factors associated with repeat offending. He also discussed the need for quality data to help guide the development of “re-entry” programs.

In the afternoon, the participants selected to attend two of four break-out sessions. The sessions covered case management, cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and a family-focused intervention targeting youth.

Potter said evaluations of the workshop were “overwhelmingly positive.”

He envisions the workshop as the first in a new “science to service” training effort hosted by UCF’s Department of Criminal Justice and the Criminal Justice Institute at Valencia College with funding from Orange County Corrections.