Mission and History


The Prisoner Reentry Institute’s (PRI) diversified portfolio reflects an overall focus on understanding what it takes for people to live successfully in their communities after contact with the criminal justice system, and on increasing the effectiveness of the professionals who work with them. We do this through our three main tracks of policy advocacy, direct service practice, and collaborative partnerships.

  • Policy advocacy: Providing practitioners and policymakers with cutting edge tools and expertise
  • Direct service practice: Developing, managing and evaluating innovative reentry projects
  • Collaborative partnerships: Identifying opportunities and building collaboration across fields and disciplines

The Prisoner Reentry Institute was founded in 2005 as one of twelve institutes that collectively comprise the Research Consortium of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The term “reentry” gained traction at the federal level following a conversation between then National Institute of Justice Director Jeremy Travis, Assistant Attorney General for Justice Programs Laurie Robinson, and Attorney General Janet Reno in the spring of 1999. The Attorney General asked Travis and Robinson to find out what was being done for and about “all the people coming out of prison” — a population that, as they soon discovered, was approaching 600,000 people per year. It also became clear during that initial inquiry that many individuals were being re-incarcerated after release, and that understanding and addressing the challenge of the post-release period would be crucial to combating the problem of recidivism. “Reentry,” a term that had been used previously in John Irwin’s 1970 writings on the prison experience, was widely adopted by Travis and many others as the name for the burgeoning field of social services and rehabilitative supports for people returning from incarceration.

Jeremy Travis continued to work on prisoner reentry as a senior fellow at the Urban Institute before taking up the post of President at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004. A year later, along with Founding Director Debbie Mukamal, the Prisoner Reentry Institute (PRI) was established as a part of John Jay’s Research Consortium. Now under the leadership of Director Ann Jacobs, PRI has expanded to include educational initiatives for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students at John Jay, the College Initiative program, and a number of research projects and convenings on topics related to reentry.