Jail Collaborative

The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative was created in 2000 when county leadership observed that not enough was being done for former inmates to support their reentry into the community. The collaborative expanded and enhanced Justice Related Services in Allegheny County.

The Jail Collaborative is Formed

Jail Conditions that Spurred Action

By 2000, the steady increase in the inmate population at the Allegheny County Jail was interrupted by a particularly noticeable jump in both the number of female inmates and the number of male inmates under 25 years. Perhaps more troubling to all stakeholders was the 71 percent recidivism rate.

A DHS evaluation of the available reintegration services showed a combination of duplicated services, inappropriate services and service gaps.

  • Service duplication appeared rooted in inadequate coordination between the county corrections system and the agencies that provided services in the jail.
  • Services that were appropriate and effective for male inmates were found to be ineffective for female inmates since issues that the female inmates had, including histories of physical abuse, childcare responsibilities and parenting, were not routinely considered when designing their programs.
  • The virtual absence and imbalance of effective services that addressed inmates returning to the community, often referred to as halfway and step-down programs, was particularly concerning. With national research indicating programs directed at reentry can significantly reduce recidivism, the administration determined the inconsistency of this vital programming was a disservice to the community.

Having gathered this critical information, change was on the horizon.

The Community Re-integration Program is the Foundation for the Jail Collaborative

In 2000, Jim Roddey, then Chief Executive of Allegheny County, commissioned a Jail Transition Committee to make recommendations for the needed changes in the operation and administration of the County Jail and its programs to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. The resultant Jail Transition Committee Report suggested a Community Re-integration Program, detailed below, that would be centered on reaching these goals by focusing on treatment and services in the jail as well as intensive support for inmates and ex-offenders before and during their reintegration into their communities. Additionally, key stakeholders were called to form a collaborative group whose purpose was to develop a plan to implement the countywide community re-integration approach.

Since 2000, the Jail Collaborative with representatives from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Jail and Health Department, has been meeting on a monthly basis to address its two primary concerns. The Jail Collaborative has worked through many perceived obstacles for implementing the plan that involved collaborating with other government agencies, court officials, service providers, ex-offenders, faith-based community organizations, families and the community at large. Other topics of the early discussions included engaging service providers inside and outside the jail and the importance of a strategic plan.

The committee recommended that the county corrections system focus on several key issues

  • Coordination among agencies and departments
  • Management information systems
  • Individual case management for services for inmates in the jail, alternative incarceration and after release in the community
  • The identification of program needs in the jail and in the community
  • Alternative incarceration programs including house arrest
  • Treatment programs in the jail and the community
  • Post-release planning and coordination
  • Halfway and step-down programs
  • The distinctive needs of female inmates
  • Jail and community program evaluations
  • Program funding and grants

A Focus on the Children of Incarcerated Parents

Internal DHS research and reports from across the nation indicated that children of incarcerated parents need special care to weather the trauma of their parent's situation. In July 2006, with funding from the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation, a system advocate was hired by Allegheny County to advocate for the needs of this vulnerable population. The advocate works with multiple county agencies, police departments, the district attorney, the public defender, judges, service providers, community programs, and jail personnel to critically examine current policy and stimulate substantive changes aimed at mitigating the negative consequences of incarceration on children and families. Specifically

  • Better care for children during their parent’s actual arrest
  • Improved visiting conditions at the jail
  • Strengthened supports for relatives who take on the role of caregiver
  • Development of a county-wide information system
  • Training for criminal justice, child welfare, school and service provider personnel
  • Enhanced services to children in emotional crisis

The Community Re-integration Program

The Community Re-integration Program was developed further in the 2001 report — A Path to Success: A Comprehensive Service Design for the Allegheny County Jail.

The Comprehensive Service Design Approach Includes

  • A screening for inmates to determine service needs
  • A service plan facilitated by caseworkers
  • On-going case management support
  • Identifying additional services inside and outside the jail
  • A commitment by the court to reduce a sentence as a reward for compliance with the service plan
  • Addressing the overwhelming need for drug and alcohol treatment
  • Planning for aftercare and post-release services well in advance of the release of the inmate
  • Including the family of the inmate when possible
  • Providing services and case management during incarceration and post-release

Key Elements of the Planning Process Include

  • Strong, consistent communication among all entities involved
  • Adequate number of jail staff to provide effective case management services
  • On-going planning mechanisms
  • Appropriate and realistic service plans
  • Quality programs with adequate number of slots to serve inmates
  • Adequate supervision and support for post-release services
  • On-going assessment and evaluation of the functioning of the overall service approach and individual programs

Evidence-based Improvements

Tracking and evaluation of the Community Re-integration Program was created to assess the improvements in the service-delivery system and individual inmate outcomes. Information was collected and stored in a database that reported information on inmates, tracked service availability, determined the eligibility of inmates for programs, and assisted in the creation of the comprehensive service plan. The evaluation of the program focused on service usage, provider performance outcomes, recidivism among service inmates, length of time between screening, referral, service provision and release. The information collected was shared with DHS through the Electronic Client and Provider System (eCAPS) system.

In 2002, the Jail Collaborative was expanded when service providers from the community were invited to participate. At the same time, a jail planner was identified to coordinate the collaborative process. Also the collaborative group developed service plans, and referral and consent forms. Caseworkers were trained on the implementation of the forms.

The Comprehensive System Includes

Service planning and coordination

  • Every Allegheny County Jail inmate will participate in a screening that identifies his or her issues, strengths and service history
  • Any Allegheny County Jail inmate who has 120 days remaining of their sentence will have a completed a service plan that identifies services that will be provided inside and outside the jail
  • Allegheny County Jail inmates will receive early release due to their compliance with the service plan when deemed appropriate by the presiding judge, district attorney, probation or parole officer
  • All Allegheny County Jail inmates will be assigned a jail caseworker that will work with them to develop their plan and to coordinate their services
  • All providers who are working with an Allegheny County Jail inmate within the jail will meet to respond to gaps and barriers

Service provision for Allegheny County Jail inmates

  • A full menu of services from detoxification treatment to daily Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings for those who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction
  • GED and/or Adult Basic Education classes for those who do not have a high school diploma or have a limited literacy
  • Employment and training programs within the jail
  • Job placement assistance, upon release, for those who participate in employment training
  • Opportunities to see their children and to begin to rebuild their relationships with their children and other significant family members

Post-release services for Allegheny County Jail inmates

  • Pre-release development of a service plan for post-release services that will be developed by the inmate, caseworkers and service providers
  • A community re-integration specialist for inmates who have an approved and active service plan. The specialist will be with the inmate at release and will work to assure services are available and accessible. The re-integration specialist will work in concert with judges, probation/parole office, and district attorney

Jail Collaborative Available Services in 2007(PDF, 74KB)

The Collaborative: Innovation Spurs Funding


In 2009, Allegheny County made a successful application, on behalf of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative, for a U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Second Chance Act Prisoner Reentry Initiative competitive grant. Most of the 15 adult Second Chance Act grants were awarded to large state prison programs. Allegheny County was one of the few county programs to be a recipient. The grant, $600,000 per year for up to three years—if the county meets federal standards for performance—was intended to fund programs to support members of the sentenced jail population to make a successful re-integration into their communities after release. The grant-application process provided an incentive for the members of the Jail Collaborative to think strategically about future needs and ways to meet them. The Jail Collaborative Three-year Plan(PDF, 2MB) was published in July 2010. A summary of the three-year plan(PDF, 2MB) is also available. Other related documents are posted at the bottom of this page.


In 2010, the Jail Collaborative secured a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) grant totaling $499,000—in support of the re-entry program and systems change. Using this grant, the Collaborative works to improve the quality of visits and discharge as part of its overall plan to reduce recidivism at the county jail with particular focus on reducing the strain/trauma faced by children who have a parent in the jail. The county has made significant progress on this four-part plan.


In October 2012, the Jail Collaborative received a third year of funding in the amount of $1.2 million under the U.S. Department of Justice Second Chance Act Demonstration Programs to support the Allegheny County Re-entry Initiative.

Evaluation of the Jail Collaborative

2015 to Present

Additional research and reports related to the Jail Collaborative are available on the Allegheny County Analytics site.


Evaluation of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative Reentry Programs(PDF, 929KB)
Urban Institute, October 2014
In order to better understand how the Allegheny County reentry model, especially the family services portion, is functioning, the Collaborative issued a request for proposals. Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center was selected from the nine entrants to conduct a 12-month review and evaluation of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative’s Reentry programs to gauge program performance and effectiveness. The process for this review and the Urban Institute’s findings are presented in this report. Heinz Endowments funded the evaluation. Based on the results, the Collaborative will make changes to their approach, if warranted.


The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative was honored by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government as a Bright Ideas.

The U.S. Department of Justice is funding the evaluation of seven Second Chance Act (SCA) sites, Allegheny County among them. Social Policy Research Associates and MDRC are conducting the randomized control trial to determine what, if any, effect implementing the SCA has had. While it will not isolate results from individual sites, it will provide lawmakers with a means to conduct informed decision-making. Results of this evaluation are due in 2014.


The National Association of Counties Bureau of Justice Assistance highlighted the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative in its September 2008 publication Reentry for Safer Communities.

Results from the University of Pittsburgh Allegheny County Jail Collaborative Evaluation(PDF, 417KB) study, funded by the Human Services Integration Fund, were released on January 3, 2008. The Collaborative’s vision, a collaboration of three systems working together to successfully return inmates to the community was shown to be of value in reducing both recidivism and justice-related expenses. In addition, former inmates reported a personal value in taking part in the services.

Additional Resources