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Abstract or Description

The problem is as old as the justice system itself—how to reduce the chance that an individual reoffends after they commit an offense and become involved with the justice system. This challenge of reducing recidivism remains critical. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, there are over 120,000 individuals in state prisons in California. Another 380,000 cycle through jails in California every year. In 2021, roughly 25,000 individuals were released from prison in California each year. This is the scope of the challenge.

In San Diego County, a wide variety of agencies and organizations are working to address the recidivism challenge. In addition, although there is no way to measure this accurately, there is a willingness across the spectrum to experiment with new approaches and solutions. This report focuses on one area of relatively new and promising approaches—those that elevate the talent and expertise of individuals with “lived experience” with the justice system.

Support for lived experience approaches is growing both nationally and in San Diego. Beyond the rising number of lived experience initiatives, this type of work in San Diego has become largely normalized. There is broad agreement that lived experience work should be part of the portfolio used to reduce recidivism, with clear demand from stakeholders involved in reentry, including law enforcement officials, service providers, community members, and, crucially, justice-involved individuals. Given the growing prevalence of and support for lived experience approaches in San Diego, it is important to create a deeper understanding of how to increase the impact of these approaches. Toward that end, this report identifies strengths of lived experience approaches to amplify, challenges of lived experience approaches to mitigate, and lessons from lived experience approaches that can be applied more broadly.

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recidivism, lived experience, justice impacted, criminal justice system


Criminology | Peace and Conflict Studies | Social Justice

Addressing the Recidivism Challenge in San Diego County: Learning from Lived Experience Approaches