CLEAR’s Education and Training Programs for Judges and Stakeholders 

Reentry programs and reentry courts are designed to help returning citizens successfully “reenter” society following their incarceration, thereby reducing recidivism, improving public safety and saving money. Through a framework of subgroups, CLEAR’s Criminal Justice Task Force addresses policies and practices within the criminal justice system that disenfranchise the most vulnerable members of our society. The subgroup dealing with reentry focuses on educating judges and stakeholders about why reentry matters and what judges and stakeholders can do to improve the reentry process for those coming out of prison and jail. 

Among its recent initiatives and accomplishments, the subcommittee lobbied the Massachusetts Legislature to create a state-wide, state-funded reentry network for every person leaving prison or jail in the commonwealth. As a result, the Ralph Gants Reentry Services Program is providing $2 million to the Massachusetts Community Justice Support Centers (CCJS) to provide every person coming out of prison or jail with reentry services at one of the 19 CCJS centers. 

Currently, the subgroup is educating judges and other stakeholders about how to meet the challenges people face when they leave prison or jail and reenter their communities.  In September, CLEAR held its first educational session at the Flaschner Judicial Institute, the Massachusetts state’s court education and training center. The virtual program was produced by the reentry subcommittee and its chairs, retired Justice Sydney Hanlon and retired Judge Roz Miller. With funding from the Ralph D. Gants Access to Justice Fund, the session included a video featuring the voices of individuals from diverse racial and gender backgrounds who have all lived through the experience of incarceration and reentry. They described the substantial challenges they faced and also identified the practices, protocols and programs which helped them navigate the process. As part of this session, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Serge Georges, Jr. introduced the program and discussed how critical the reentry process is to the success of the criminal justice system. Vincent Lorenti, executive director of the former Office of Community Corrections, now renamed the Community Justice Support Centers, explained how his 19 offices are using their budget and resources to support those seeking to create a productive life after incarceration. Representatives from the Department of Corrections and the Massachusetts Bar Association also participated. The goal for 2022-2023 is educating stakeholders about how best to use this new state-wide reentry system and how to maximize its effectiveness. The session was recorded and distributed to all Massachusetts judges.  

The Criminal Justice Task Force’s restorative justice subgroup, with funding from the Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants Access to Justice Fund, is now training judges and judicial administrators and personnel in restorative justice practices. This will be the first time Massachusetts judges and court administrators will have training in restorative justice protocols. With this restorative justice training program, we hope to inspire judges to shift from an exclusively punitive model of justice in which the system only asks what happened and how an individual should be punished and fined to a new paradigm of problem solving. This paradigm includes problem solving in which all those involved – police, probation officers, victims, judges, defense counsel, prosecutors – are gathered in a circle to ask:  Why did you do this? What services do you need to ensure that you will not do this again? How can we make the community, and the victims whole again and how can we all heal from this incident or crime? 

We believe that by training judges and court personnel in these restorative justice practices we will be encouraging the court to move to a trauma-informed, problem-solving model focused on healing and creative innovative solutions and programs to enable the individual to lead a more productive life.