The headings in the left-hand margin identify topics. The paragraphs on the right summarize the topic and available resources. The majority of paragraphs include links to Briefing greatly expand upon information summarized on this page.

Briefing Papers may be printed. However, they are designed to be used on-line as they contain numerous embedded links to websites and publications. Clicking on the PNO logo on the Briefing Papers will return the user to the PNO web site.


In this Briefing Paper Project Director Malcolm C. Young describes how PNO’s strategies and overall approach to reentry were influenced by lessons Young learned while directing Northwestern University’s School of Law-Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Prison Reentry Strategies Project , by his review of reentry programming and research summarized in  The Returning Prisoner and the Future of Work (2014), and by formerly incarcerated individuals including Susan Burton in Los Angeles and Norris Henderson in New Orleans who envisioned and brought to life innovative, deep-reaching reentry programs.


From Deputy Project Director, Norman Brown:  After watching the first 3 episodes of the OWN Network’s new series, “RELEASED” I began spreading the word with family and friends on the importance of seeing and discussing this with others. I also raised the fact that this should be shown in all of the BOP reentry programs for people preparing to come home. Why? It is so real to me, having just been released from serving a very long sentence. It has touched on so many of the real life issues, you will come face to face with upon your release. Families have to see this important series. It will help them to understand the psychological adjustments a family member just released from prison will be going through and assist the entire family in this very trying transition for all.


Reports and fact sheets prepared for and about PNO:



The BOP’s reentry process is unique in comparison to the process in most states. It involves multiple agencies across two branches of government with far-flung regional and local offices and often great distances between the incarcerated individual and home communities and families. The BOP’s website provides some information about reentry and the role played by its contract halfway houses.

PNO’s Briefing Paper provides links to the BOP’s relevant website locations and supplements the BOP’s information with additional details. The Briefing Paper also identifies several recent evaluations or reports about the BOP’s reentry process which flag areas ripe for reform:  weaknesses in inter-agency communications and in the BOP’s contract halfway house system. PNO attempts to minimize the negative impact of these weaknesses on its clients as they move through the system on the way out.


The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) determines sentence lengths for persons convicted of federal crimes. Created by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, the Commission constructed an elaborate “guidelines” which was originally mandatory on federal judges but were made “advisory” by Supreme Court decisions in 2005. The decisions did not affect mandatory minimum sentences which courts are obligated to impose.

In 2014, the USSC authorized federal courts to grant approximately two years’ reductions in sentence length for persons convicted of federal drug crimes under provisions referred to as “Drugs Minus Two” or “Amendment 782.”  Federal judges have now reduced sentences of just over 30,000 federal inmates, about 65% of those who applied.

The USSC periodically publishes data about the number of applications made and granted by federal judicial district in its “Retroactivity Report on 2014 Drug Guidelines Amendment,” current and prior editions here .

The Commission’s web site provides a quantity of legal and statistical analysis of federal sentencing law, practice and outcomes, topically indexed.

11 July 2017:  USSC published An Overview of Mandatory Minimum Penalties in the Federal Criminal Justice System” which examines the use of federal mandatory minimum penalties and the impact of those penalties on the federal prison population. The data shows that long term reentry will remain a challenge in the federal system: about 55% of all current federal inmates were sentenced to mandatory minimums. Their sentences were nearly four times longer (on average to 110 months or just over 9 years) than sentences for inmates not convicted of a mandatory minimum offense (on average 28 months).

5 September 2017: USSC published “An Analysis of the Implementation of the 2014 Clemency Initiative” which analyzes the sentence commutations granted under the 2014 Clemency Initiative. It provides data concerning the offenders who received a sentence commutation under the initiative and the offenses for which they were incarcerated. It examines the extent of the sentence reductions resulting from the commutations and the conditions placed on commutations. It also provides an analysis of the extent to which these offenders appear to have met the announced criteria for the initiative. Finally, it provides an analysis of the number of offenders incarcerated at the time the initiative was announced who appear to have met the eligibility criteria for the initiative and the number of those offenders who received a sentence commutation. 


The concept of “reentry” entered into the thinking and actions of academics, policymakers, advocates and justice and corrections professionals in the late 1990’s.  A number of nationally-based agencies and organizations took the lead in program development and in removing barriers to employment, housing and social integration for individuals leaving jails and prisons. Many of these organizations are still active in reentry. A number have published reports and evaluations and issued recommendations and guidelines, some more current or comprehensive than others. This PNO Briefing Paper describes the information available from many national organizations including on-line bibliographies and reference materials.



Throughout the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations the federal government actively supported research and the development of reentry programs, particularly at the state and local level. President Bush signed the Second Chance Act which provided grants for adult and juvenile reentry programs to state and local agencies in 2007.

Federal agencies involved in reentry include the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and programs within the Department of Labor and Department of Education. Since 2011, federal activities were coordinated among more than 28 agencies by the Federal Interagency Reentry Council. PNO’s Briefing Paper identifies some of the federal Agencies engaged in reentry, reentry programs and grant making and the resources they provide.


PNO assists clients on an individual basis as they contend with the many limitations on where they can live, employment, licensing, entry into professions and exercise of privileges such as the ownership of weapons.  PNO’s Briefing Paper, provides references and links to comprehensive 50-state catalogues of the thousands of collateral consequences of a felony conviction and an introduction to many of the lead organizations addressing various collateral consequences at the national level, some of these with local activities or providing access to local advocates who can assist with specific problems faced by previously-incarcerated individual.


PNO is preparing Briefing Papers on several additional and more specific topics, including reentry for women and for veterans.