The 5-Key Model for Reentry

The 5-Key Model for Reentry translates the key ingredients of successful reentry into a flexible approach that can be implemented at different levels of intensity. Specialized enhancements are provided based on individual needs, which means resources are not wasted on a one-size-fits-all approach. The 5-Key Model extends beyond simply helping people to find a job after prison, instead helping individuals address substance use and mental health challenges while building support and finding meaningful work in their communities.

The 5-Key Model can be implemented by a range of professionals working in a variety of settings, and is paired with modules of evidence-driven engagement and retention strategies to help those leaving prison show up, participate, and succeed.

The 5-Key Model is based on an extensive research review of over 100,000 studies worldwide which found that, in general, there are five key ingredients to successful reentry. The 5-Key Model is a package of service approaches that addresses each of these ingredients as early as possible during an individual’s incarceration to help ease the transition and catalyze growth.


Healthy Thinking Patterns

Adaptive mental actions or processes, the presence of empathy, and the acceptance of internalization of values and norms that promote pro-social behavior.


Reliable, mutually beneficial relationships between two people that range from brief to enduring in duration within formal or informal social contexts.

Positive Social Engagement

Social experiences organized for beneficial social purposes that directly or indirectly involve others, engaged in during discretionary time, and experienced as enjoyable.

Meaningful Work Trajectories

Sustainable compatibility of an individual’s goals and abilities and the demands of that individual’s occupation (obligations/job paid or unpaid) is sustainable.

Effective Coping Strategies

Adaptive behavioral and psychological efforts taken to manage and reduce internal/external stressors in ways that are not harmful in the short or long-term.

5-Key Model for Reentry Pilot Test

The 5-Key Model pilot was a longitudinal randomized controlled trial launched through the Institute for Justice Research & Development (founded by Dr. Carrie Pettus in 2018) at Florida State University

The study enrolled 2,384 incarcerated individuals from more than 100 correctional facilities into the 5-Key Model study – 1,192 of whom were randomly assigned to receive the 5-Key Model across 7 states with the other 50% as a comparison group who did not receive any 5-Key Model interventions (these individuals released from prison and received existing services while incarcerated and in then in their communities).

Pettus and her research team gathered baseline (pre-release) data on 1,563 participants in four study states (Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Texas). Data was also collected from participants immediately after release from incarceration, 4 months post-release, 8 months post-release, and 15 months post-release. We also have post-release qualitative data from participants on their experience of reentry and their perception of reentry service needs, availability, and what supports they have accessed since leaving incarceration.