Taking it Personally: How Making Connections Makes a Difference in the Success of Reentry Courts

Hon. Tim A. Baker

U.S. Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

The Southern District of Indiana began its first reentry court in 2007. The program is known by the acronym REACH, which stands for Reentry and Community Help. The REACH program demands accountability from its participants while simultaneously providing a supportive environment that offers a variety of resources to help with the difficult transition from incarceration to freedom. REACH graduates consistently credit the program as a crucial component in their successful reentry, and REACH has reduced recidivism rates in the district.

This article is based on my first-hand experiences with the Southern District’s REACH program for more than a dozen years. While the article mentions some of the many reasons why the program has succeeded, the focus of this article is singular: the importance of the presiding judge making personal connections with REACH participants. As this article discusses, I have made these personal connections in many different and sometimes unusual ways. To be sure, there is no single way to operate a reentry court, and the success, or failure, of such courts is multi-dimensional. The experiences catalogued in this article, however, demonstrate that making personal connections is a cornerstone of successful reentry.

Read the Hon. Tim A. Baker’s entire article here.

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