Reintegration in Ontario: Practices, Priorities, and Effective Models

The reintegration of individuals exiting correctional facilities (hereafter “releasees”) in Ontario into the larger community has widespread implications for those being released, their families, and the broader society. While many releasees are in need of reintegrative supports, they often struggle to find stable housing, employment and/or educational opportunities, and access to necessary social, physical, and mental health services. Not only are these problems compounded by the social stigma of being labelled “an ex-offender” or “an ex-con”, but also the lack of communication between stakeholders and a fragmented service provision model stretched across a large number of front-line service providers.

Addressing the complex needs of releasees through effective programs, services and practices is crucial for successful reintegration. Research literature is clear that successful reintegration is one of the primary factors in reducing recidivism. Reduction in further criminal justice involvement by releasees has significant implications on enhancing community safety. The Association for Effective Reintegration in Ontario (AERO) was established in 2013 out of a larger Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council1 (SSHRC)-funded project entitled Navigating the Road to Reintegration which sought to create a research network to develop a long-term research agenda and knowledge mobilization plan, as well as a practicable policy framework that front-line service providers can readily utilize to begin the process of streamlining and optimizing reintegration efforts in Ontario. AERO’s main object is to address reintegration issues throughout Ontario from the research and policy activities of its stakeholders (academics, front-line service providers, and other individuals from the community), in order to collaboratively develop practical solutions which would effect real change to the reintegration process.

Over the last three years, AERO has undertaken several activities to mobilize its members and determine what they felt to be the most significant challenges releasees face, as well as identifying the best solutions for ensuring a successful transition from a correctional institution (hereafter prison) to the community. AERO members identify five main priority areas in reintegration: Discharge Planning, Housing, Employment and Education, Social Supports and Complex Needs, and Stigma. This document provides an overview of each priority area and the relevant research literature, while also highlighting many promising and innovative reintegration programs or practices currently being offered by community-based service providers across Ontario. We conclude with a discussion of the importance of the five priority areas for successful reintegration and emphasize the major themes emerging from the literature on effective reintegration practices and models which, we argue, should guide reintegration services and programming.

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