Salt Lake County’s REACH Program

The Problem

Salt Lake County, UT, faces high rates of recidivism: 74% of high-risk offenders in the County find themselves back in the criminal justice system within four years of their release. As Mayor Ben McAdams says, “That not only is a human tragedy, but it costs taxpayers a lot of money.” The challenge is compounded by two further facts: the Salt Lake County jail consistently operates at full capacity and Utah’s prison population has grown by 18 percent over the past decade. Additionally, the fact that many offenders have substance-use disorders contributes to this high rate of recidivism.  

The Basics

Location: Salt Lake County, Utah

Policy area: Criminal Justice

Service provider: First Step House

Size of investment: Not publicly available

Maximum success payments possible: $5.95 million

Investors: Northern Trust, QBE Insurance Group Limited, Ally Bank, Reinvestment Fund, Sorenson Impact Foundation, Living Cities, James Sorenson Family Foundation, Larry H. and Gail Miller Foundation, George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, Synchrony Bank, Zions Bank

Intermediary: Sorenson Impact Center

Other partners: Third Sector Capital Partners, Government Advisor and Transaction Coordinator; Dorsey and Whitney LLP, Legal Advisor; Utah Adult Probation and Parole, Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Utah Homelessness Management Information Systems, and Volunteers of America, Community Partners.

Evaluator: Utah Criminal Justice Center at the University of Utah

Evaluation methodology: Randomized control trial

Outcome payor: Salt Lake County

Outcomes that yield payments: A 35% reduction in days incarcerated over four years, with an average of $200 paid back to investors per day avoided; a 35% reduction in statewide arrests, with $250 paid back to investors per arrest avoided; a 25% improvement in quarters of employment over two years, with $450 paid back to investors per quarter; and 200 hours of treatment conducted within six months of enrollment, with $5,800 paid back to investors per successfully engaged participant. If all rates are met, the program will achieve 26,800 fewer days in jail or prison and 225 fewer arrests.

Timeframe: Six years

Date announced: December 2016

The Intervention

Intervention: First Step House’s two-year REACH (Recovery, Engagement, Assessment, Career, and Housing) program will provide a holistic set of services to over 225 formerly incarcerated adult males, including behavioral health treatment, short-term housing, and case management services. The program is designed to help individuals successfully reintegrate into the community.

Evidence base behind the intervention: REACH uses the Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model, which includes assessing an individual’s risk, matching treatment intensity to their measured risk level, targeting their specific needs, and providing treatment matching their motivations and strengths. The first year involves intensive treatment services, during which First Step House will provide housing for participants, if needed. Participants are then transitioned to sustained recovery treatment, during which participants will receive support maintaining connections with social and recovery networks and maintaining stable employment and housing. Established in 1990, the RNR model is considered by some to be the most influential and effective model for assessing and treating offenders. Evidence shows that recidivism can be reduced by between 17 and 35 percent when programs adhere with the RNR model.

As part of its treatment, REACH also provides Moral Reconation Therapy to address antisocial behavior, which is a cognitive-behavioral treatment approach that has been used since 1985. According to one study, it is “designed to enhance ego, social, moral, and positive behavioral growth in a progressive, step-by-step fashion.” A meta-analysis has shown that the treatment approach is effective in reducing recidivism.