Project SOAR - Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative
Group: Minnesota Department of Corrections
As the prison population has expanded dramatically since the 1970s, so has the number of offenders released from prison. The growing number of prisoners returning home, coupled with evidence indicating that roughly two-thirds recidivate within three years, led to increased recognition that offender reentry is one of the most pressing issues facing criminal justice today. Emerging from this wellspring of concern was the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI), a large-scale program providing $100 million in funding to community-level reentry projects across the country. Created in 2003 by the Departments of Justice, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services, SVORI has served 69 grantees at 89 different sites in the United States. In 2003, the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) was selected as one of the 69 grantees and was awarded a $2 million grant to implement the Serious Offender Accountability Restoration (SOAR) project in Hennepin County. Put into operation in July 2003 by the DOC, Hennepin County, and selected community service providers (RESOURCE, Federal F.O.R.U.M., and BIHA), Project SOAR was designed to be a multi-faceted intervention that addressed the major challenges associated with prisoner reentry, particularly offenders’ employment, housing, and chemical and mental health needs. The target population consisted of offenders incarcerated in a Minnesota Correctional Facility (MCF) between the ages of 16 and 34 who were returning to Hennepin County following their release from prison. During the three years Project SOAR was in operation, a total of 240 offenders (208 adults and 32 juveniles) participated in the program. This report presents the findings from both a process and outcome evaluation of Project SOAR. The DOC contracted with the Council on Crime and Justice (CCJ) to conduct the process evaluation, which examined how well the actual implementation of Project SOAR compared with its original design. In addition, to gain a more detailed understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of Project SOAR, the CCJ interviewed 98 program participants, 45 social support individuals, 37 stakeholders, and 12 core partners. The outcome evaluation, on the other hand, which was conducted by the DOC, examined whether Project SOAR had an impact on recidivism. An experimental design was used to compare rates of recidivism, which was defined as a felony reconviction and as a reincarceration for a new crime, between SOAR participants and a control group of offenders who did not participate in SOAR.
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