A Q&A With Larry Sachs on Reentry Programs and Our Communities


There are almost 7 million formerly incarcerated people living in the US today. Most, if not all, participated in some formal process to reenter society.

Thinking about the journey each person had to take to reenter their communities and what programs helped them do so led us to write this 2 part series. The series will shed light on the reentry process and the people, programs, and conditions that play a part. You can find Part 1 here.


We had the opportunity to speak with someone who is very invested in the success of reentry programs, Larry Sachs. While developing and managing reentry programming for maximum-security inmates in the Illinois Department of Corrections, Larry completed his Master’s thesis on “The Impact of Incarceration on Reintegrative Readiness” and later served as an Assistant Warden of Program Services and as a Clinical Services Director. More recently, as Director of Grants Management for the Chicago Police Department (CPD), Larry and his team developed a federally funded program to help returning citizens start small businesses. They also created a program (Force for Good) that strengthened the capacity of over 100 Chicago 501(c)3’s to provide reentry and other community services. In short, Larry is passionate about improving correctional reentry programming and community-based support for returning citizens. We’ll be exploring topics around the factors, resources, and triumphs of reentry programs and how, through the Greater Chicago Reentry Coalition (GCRC), RiseKit plays a part in the process.


Topic: Why is improving reentry support so important?

LS: When I worked with guys in maximum security and asked them to imagine what they would like their lives to look like five years after leaving prison, I learned that they wanted what we all want – respect, family, safety, rewarding work – but didn’t have a clue how to get there. So we taught them planning skills, how to focus on getting a survival job while working toward longer-term goals, and how to access resources once home to help them succeed on a new path. That experience inspired and informed my entire career, including my work on restorative justice, many CPD public safety initiatives, and more recently while working with colleagues to develop the GCRC. We created the GCRC to advocate for and support the following:

  1. Employment-centered reentry practices to prepare people to return home safely and successfully; and
  2. Comprehensive, evidence-based community and government resources to help returning citizens meet their immediate (e.g., food, shelter) and reintegrative (e.g., transportation, employment, mentoring) needs.


Topic: How are relationships essential to the success of a reentry program?

When most of us think about reentry programs, fostering healthy relationships isn’t our first thought. But returning home from prison can be a challenging transition after spending considerable time away from community, family, friends, church, hobbies, etc. Many returning citizens have lost touch with their networks and any professional relationships while incarcerated, and rebuilding and reconnecting with those relationships is essential to a successful return home.

When thinking about what those relationships mean to returning citizens, Sachs mentioned how positive peer support and mentorship is integral to the reentry process:

LS: The single most important thing that we can do for anyone returning home from prison is to match them with someone who cares about them, who they can connect with, who they can call, who can guide them in the right direction, and who can help them stay positive and patient when faced with adversity and frustration.


Topic: Why not rely on recidivism rates to measure the success of reentry programs?

LS: I strongly caution against using recidivism rates to measure our success because those rates are influenced by many factors beyond our control – unless, maybe, if we use a matched group research model to compare recidivism between participants and nonparticipants. However, I am entirely confident that we will improve public safety and help our communities thrive if we do a better job preparing people to return home and invest in community capacity to connect returning citizens with the resources they need to live responsible lives. If we also invest in our schools, support parents, and have much more effective community partnership with the police to improve public safety, we can and will measurably reduce recidivism. Most returning citizens want to live responsibly and safely but need our support – and we should measure our success one person at a time, not by changes in recidivism rates.


Topic: What kind of resources and support contribute to a successful reentry to society for formerly incarcerated citizens?

Communities with high incarceration rates suffer from a lack of resources (especially around education, job readiness, and housing insecurity) that must be addressed if we want to help returning citizens rebuild their lives. Sachs talks about how access to opportunities and knowledge influences the success of reentry.

LS: Most people leaving the prison system want to change their lives and live differently and without risk, but their intention must be matched with opportunity and knowledge to be successful. Sadly, most people coming out of prison don’t have easy access to the opportunities, knowledge, and mentorship they need to be successful.


When talking about the importance of finding the right resources after leaving the prison system, Sachs had this to say:

LS: After years of incarceration, the ability of returning citizens to live responsible lives has been severely damaged. Staying out of trouble and living a good life can be very difficult without a practical action plan and access to needed support and resources. The opportunity provided by RiseKit technology to access resource information and the people that can support them is hugely important.


If you’re interested in learning more about resources available to those returning home from prison, Kane County and the Greater Chicago Reentry Coalition are the best places to start!