Use of Critical Time Intervention (CTI) to Promote Continuity of Reintegration After Incarceration

Published date01 September 2021
Date01 September 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Use of Critical Time
Intervention (CTI) to Promote
Continuity of Reintegration
After Incarceration
Dae-Young Kim
and S. Marlon Gayadeen
Critical time intervention (CTI) is a time-limited intervention originally designed to provide the
continuity of support for homeless and mentally ill people released from an institution to community
living. This study offers theoretical foundations for adopting CTI in the field of criminal justice.
Through the lens of CTI, this study examines the needs of prisoners returning to the community,
discusses the challenges faced by reentry practitioners in offering support and assistance to
ex-prisoners in the community, and provides specific suggestions. This study uses focus groups and
individual interviews to assess the needs, obstacles, and opportunities ex-prisoners have or face
in the community, as perceived by returning prisoners and practitioners, which leads to a more in-
depth understanding of the prisoner reentry process.
prisoner reentry, critical time intervention, halfway house, needs of prisoner reentry, obstacles to
prisoner reentry, qualitative research, focus group, and individual interview
Over the past 3 decades, there has been an unprecedented increase in U.S. prison populations.
Almost 2.2 million prisoners are currently held in jails and prisons, and most of them will eventually
return to society (Walmsley, 2018). Most ex-prisoners today are undereducated, lack job skills, and
struggle with drug abuse and mental illness (Gunnison & Helfgott, 2013; Petersilia, 2003). Addi-
tionally, they tend to be homeless without family and community support.
In the context of mass imprisonment and prison overcrowding, prisoners are offered less assis-
tance and thus are ill-prepared for release (Petersilia, 2003; Western, 2018). Prisoners often return to
the community without the above risk factors having been appropriately addressed during incarcera-
tion. In 2017, 622,377 prisoners were released from state and federal prisons to the community
(Bronson & Carson, 2019). However, a large percentage of ex-prisoners returned to the prison as a
State University of New York—Buffalo State, NY, USA
Corresponding Author:
Dae-Young Kim, Criminal Justice Department, State University of New York—Buffalo State, 1300 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo,
NY 14222, USA.
Criminal Justice Review
2021, Vol. 46(3) 281-303
ª2020 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734016820958139
result of new crimes and parole violations (Alper et al., 2018; Durose et al., 2014; Langan & Levin,
2002). Due to the high rates of recidivism, reentry has been a critical issue for policy makers and
There has been notable attention to the topic of helping ex-offenders who have served their time
and are released back into society (Bohmert et al., 2018; Denney et al., 2014; Garland et al., 2011).
Researchers have sought to understand how ex-prisoners perceive their reentry experiences and
perceptions (Gunnison & Helfgott, 2013; Western, 2018). There has also been scholarly attention to
what makes reentry effective and the role of reentry programs in reducing recidivism (Mears &
Cochran, 2015). It is imperative to find ways to care for ex-prisoners who lack the necessities of life
and are exposed to related adversities.
In 2016, 870,500 offenders were on parole (Kaeble, 2018). As the number of returning prisoners
has increased, the workload for parole officers has also increased. Parole officers have large case-
loads that restrict their ability to provide supervision and assistance for successful reentry. Many
local governments have partnered with private organizations to care for ex-prisoners and assist them
in transitioning from prison to the community (The United States Conference of Mayors, 2009). It is
important to examine whether and/or how private reentry programs can contribute to prisoner
reentry when the parole system is already overstretched.
This study contributes to the literature in three important ways. First, despite the prevalence of
private reentry programs, few studies were conducted to examine their roles in the reentry process of
ex-prisoners. This study discusses the effectiveness of a private reentry program and various chal-
lenges in providing reentry services to ex-prisoners. Second, prior studies examined the needs and
challenges of prisoner reentry, as perceived by either ex-prisoners or reentry officers. None of them
discussed whether there is a similarity or discrepancy in the perceptions of prisoner reentry between
ex-prisoners and reentry officers. This study examines the perceived obstacles and opportunities for
released prisoners inherent in the reentry process from the standpoint of both ex-prisoners and staff
in a private reentry program. The triangulation of both perspectives leads to a greater understanding
of the prisoner reentry process than either of them alone. Third, this study expands on prior research
by examining the role of a private reentry program through the lens of critical time intervention
(CTI). While CTI has been successfully used in the field of public health, it is rarely used for
prisoner reentry. This study discusses CTI as a theoretical framework to understand the role of a
private reentry program in facilitating an ex-prisoner’s reintegration into the community.
Literature Review
Prisoner Reentry
A substantial amount of research has been conducted to examine the topic of prisoner reentry. Much
of the literature has focused on examining ex-prisoners’ perceptions of the reentry process using
qualitative, case study methods (Bohmert et al., 2018; Denney et al., 2014; Garland et al., 2011;
Gunnison & Helfgott, 2013; Luther et al., 2011). There is a well-established understanding of what
needs and obstacles returning pri soners have or confront upon releas e. The factors that hinder
prisoner reentry include unstable housing, poor education, unemployment, substance abuse, mental
illness, psychological adjustment, stigmatization, family reunification, to mention but a few
(Gunnison & Helfgott, 2013; Gunnison et al., 2015; Nelson et al., 1999; Petersilia, 2003; Richie,
2001; Solomon et al., 2001; Western, 2018). In addition, some studies explored criminal justice
practitioners’ perceptions of the needs and challenges of ex-offenders in the transition from prison to
community living (Brown, 2004; Graffam et al., 2004; Gunnison & Helfgott, 2007; Gunnison &
Helfgott, 2011; Gunnison & Helfgott, 2013; Gunnison et al., 2015; The United States Conference of
282 Criminal Justice Review 46(3)

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