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Reentry National Media Outreach Campaign

The Reentry National Media Outreach Campaign is an exciting multi-year media outreach effort that focuses on the reintegration of men and women leaving prison and returning home. More people are leaving prisons across the country to return to their families and communities than at any other time in our history. Nationally, over 600,000 individuals will be released from state and federal prisons this year, a fourfold increase over the past two decades. From a number of perspectives, the issue of how people fare after they exit the prison gates has received renewed attention. Many will have difficulty managing the most basic ingredients for successful reintegration – reconnecting with jobs, housing, and their families, and accessing needed substance abuse and health care treatment.

The Reentry Campaign expands public awareness and dialogue, provides mediabased resources to accompany the broadcast of television and radio productions, and works in partnership with diverse organizations engaged in local initiatives to strengthen families and neighborhoods. Critical to the success of the campaign is its focus on issues that are of primary concern to policy leaders, faith and communitybased organizations, and public television stations; and that can lead to desired outcomes.

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Series / Broadcast

A long-term effort, the Reentry National Media Outreach Campaign is unique in that it incorporates multiple television and radio documentaries. The stepped broadcast dates (over a three-year period) for the various productions and the extended timeline for the campaign means heightened exposure for an awareness effort and the opportunity to build maximum impact. All productions incorporate the theme of reentry into family and community by individuals who were formerly incarcerated.

The first documentary broadcast under the umbrella of the Reentry Campaign was GOD AND THE INNER CITY in June 2003. WHAT I WANT MY WORDS TO DO TO YOU followed in December 2003. Since January 2004, two other productions have been aired: EVERY CHILD IS BORN A POET (April) and MANHOOD AND VIOLENCE: FATAL PERIL (May). Documentaries previously aired on PBS stations have been brought into the campaign to represent different reentry issues and populations and assist different audiences. These include A JUSTICE THAT HEALS and ROAD TO RETURN. In May, two films were added: GETTING OUT, which aired on MSNBC in December 2003 and a non-broadcast film entitled REENTRY: LIFE ON THE OUTSIDE. DEADLINE was added just prior to its broadcast on Dateline/NBC on July 30, 2004. A story on reentry in Baltimore on CBS’ 60 MINUTES II will also be added to the campaign.

By the end of December 2004, the Reentry National Media Outreach campaign featured 17 television documentaries, a public radio documentary (Children Left Behind), and an episode in a children’s series: READING RAINBOW’s “Visiting Day.” Documentaries added during this phase included BORDERLINE, DEADLINE, GIRL TROUBLE, and RED HOOK JUSTICE. A public radio documentary on “Children Left Behind,” by producer David Freudberg, explores the effect of incarceration on children as well as community support structures. OMAR AND PETE, the campaign’s centerpiece production, was broadcast in September 2005 as part of PBS’ acclaimed P.O.V. series.

The strategy to incorporate multiple documentaries within an umbrella campaign has proved to be highly successful. The diverse issues, situations, and populations (age, gender, ethnicity, faith) presented resonate with audiences and community groups across the country. OE continues to identify documentaries that may inform general and specialized audiences engaged in the campaign.


The Reentry National Media Outreach Campaign is generously funded by The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Producers surveyed reported over $3.9 million in-kind dollars for the Reentry Campaign. Participating local stations provided $360,000 in-kind since November 2003. These funds add value to, and leverage, the outreach investment.

Evaluation / Outcomes

Applied Research and Consulting, LLC will conduct an evaluation on campaign activities for OMAR AND PETE, including the utilization of Outside the Walls and the Reentry Orientation/Training Video in faith-based settings. Outcome measures for all campaign documentaries and videos are in process.

  • Sensitize diverse audiences about the complex challenges facing former prisoners and build awareness of reentry issues, populations, and services/support structures.
  • Collaborate with and enhance the work of strategic partners and reentry stakeholders through providing effective media resources that inform, persuade, educate, motivate, and engage.
  • Provide media assets to Making Connections sites to facilitate neighborhood engagement and support solution-based activities (Core Results).
  • Distribute reentry media tools and resources to key target audiences to facilitate discussion, decision making, and action; offer technical assistance to diverse users.

Outreach Extensions works in collaboration with strategic partners and advisors to create media resources and tools that can engage diverse audiences in solution-based activities.

  1. Reentry Resource Guide
    The Urban Institute (UI) collaborated with Outreach Extensions in developing a resource guide entitled Outside the Walls: A National Snapshot of Community-Based Prisoner Reentry Programs. UI provided background research papers to introduce each of the campaign’s six themes: Education and Employment, Health, Housing, Family, Public Safety, and Faith. A broad array of reentry activity (almost 100 programs) from across the country illustrate some of the exciting ways that communities and jurisdictions are beginning to think, work, and collaborate around the pressing issue of prisoner reentry. Available as .PDF files on the Reentry Campaign’s Web site, the guide’s primary purpose is to facilitate discussion and action planning by policy leaders and community groups.
  2. Reentry Outreach Videotape
    Highlighting 23 organizations in the Outside the Walls Resource Guide, the accompanying Outside the Walls: A National Snapshot of Community-Based Prisoner Reentry Programs videotape was produced by Dean Radcliffe-Lynes. It presents a snapshot of the services they provide and outcomes of their work. Interviews include service providers (including rehabilitated former prisoners), reentry clients, victims, and public officials. Structured to present the six themes in separate modules, the videotape facilitates discussion, problem solving, and decision making by faith and community audiences, as well as policy leaders. The 2.5 hour videotape is available from Outreach Extensions; it can be previewed on the Reentry Web site.
  3. Faith-Based Reentry Orientation/Training Video
    In an effort to engage and mobilize the faith community to work on the pressing challenges of reentry, the Reentry National Media Outreach Campaign and The Annie E. Casey Foundation collaborated with the National Alliance of Faith and Justice to develop a new DVD To Serve This Present Age: Reentering Through Faith supports hands-on training through offering clear examples of faith-based practices and mobilization opportunities. The DVD was completed in 2005.
  4. Ancillary Outreach Video
    An additional video slated for distribution beginning in 2004 focuses on the Center for Young Women’s Development in San Francisco, which was also presented in GIRL TROUBLE.
  5. Station / Community Grants
    Selected stations and community or faith-based organizations in Making Connections sites are invited to apply for Reentry Campaign grants. Project plans must incorporate the screening of campaign documentaries/videos and articulate actions plans/outcomes. Outreach Extensions works closely with all grantees to coordinate activities with the national campaign and deliver effective results. In 2004, 14 grants were awarded.
  6. Screening Tapes for Community Engagement
    Outreach Extensions invites community groups to expand their participation in the Reentry Campaign by holding local events. Free copies of Outside the Walls and selected campaign documentaries are available to organizations that conduct screening events, panel discussions and forums, or other local activities as a way to engage key constituencies and stakeholders in meaningful dialogue and action.
  7. Ancillary Outreach Materials
    Ancillary outreach materials to support utilization of campaign documentaries/videos by diverse audiences are primarily disseminated through the Reentry Campaign Web site. OE develops a companion discussion guide after conferring with the producer and other advisors on relevant content/issues, potential outcomes, and key target audiences. This process includes identifying a partner with content expertise that can create or review the guide, as well as contracting with an outreach or content professional to co-author the guide. OE also prepares Core Results for each film to support utilization by the Making Connections site teams.
  8. Reentry Campaign Web Site (http://www.reentrymediaoutreach.org)
    The Web site expands opportunities for public access to the outreach campaign. It provides an overview of the national campaign; all outreach print and other media materials; video clips, discussion guides, and producer information on campaign documentaries; a feedback mechanism, and information on national/local campaign activities and events.
  9. Reentry E-Newsletter
    In September 2003, Outreach Extensions issued its first Reentry E-Newsletter. Recipients include law enforcement officials, public policy organizations, faith-based organizations, grassroots community groups, and educators. Disseminated bimonthly, the newsletter features information on the ongoing campaign, descriptions of films in the pipeline along with offers of free copies for targeted screenings, reports on the usage of campaign materials by diverse organizations and groups, and profiles of reentry programs across the country.
  10. P2O / Passport To Opportunity
    A special interactive educational media tool for youth ministry settings, P2O (Passport To Opportunity) encourages positive choices, judgment, and decision making. The CD-Rom covers four areas: Look Inside Yourself, Discover Your Community, Challenge the System, and Explore Your Resources. P20 features youth who have directly experienced the juvenile justice system speaking to other youth who are in the system or headed toward it. The development of P2O, produced by Billo Communications, was funded by The Annie E. Casey Foundation as a follow-up to findings from studies on juvenile justice programs.

The development and production of Outside the Walls (video and resource guide) was guided by experts in the reentry field including the Urban Institute and the Council of State Governments’ Re-Entry Policy Council, as well as The Annie E. Casey Foundation. A faith advisory committee was also established to consult on materials appropriate to houses of worship and to develop culturally competent and theologically sound approaches to using the Reentry Campaign in faith-based settings. Another advisory group is comprised of outreach personnel at public television stations and Making Connections site teams and communication specialists. Additional collaborating organizations include the American Parole and Probation Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Bureau of Prisons, Hampton University Ministers Conference, National Alliance of Faith and Justice, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.