Eliminating Barriers-Part 1

on Wednesday - December 31, 2014.

Eliminating Barriers-Part 1

A new report from The Center for American Progress, titled "One Strike and You're Out" indicates that as many as one in three Americans now has a criminal record, and these criminal records result in a wide range of collateral consequences that limit employment, access to housing, parental rights, voting rights, access to public benefits and a variety of other restrictions and limitations.  

According to the report, "Today, a criminal record serves as both a direct cause and consequence of poverty." (Vallas and Dietrich, December 2014, p. 1)  The report also points out that for many people, their criminal record is for minor offenses or for an arrest for which they were never convicted. Yet, even when the details of someone's criminal record are clearly not for serious or violent offenses, the collateral consequences of that record can impact a person's life in myriad ways, often for many years or even decades after the offense occurred.

Says the report, "The lifelong consequences of having a criminal record - and the stigma that accompanies one - stand in stark contrast to research on 'redemption' that documents that once an individual with a prior nonviolent conviction has stayed crime free for three to four years, that person's risk of recidivism is no different from the risk of arrest for the general population. Put differently, people are treated as criminals long after they pose any significant risk of committing further crimes - making it difficult for many to move on with their lies and achieve basic economic security, let alone have a shot at upward mobility." (Vallas and Dietrich, December 2014, p. 2) 

The Center's report maps out clear strategies and recommendations for employers, education providers, local government agencies and others to take action to address these collateral consequences to "ensure that a criminal record does not consign an individual to a  life of poverty."

Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing a series of articles on the recommendations mapped out in this report.

The Center for American Progress is "a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just, and free America that ensures opportunity for all."

RMO Intensive Client Progress - B's Story

on Wednesday - December 31, 2014.

B. is a 21 year-old female, who had been doing drugs since she was 16, had multiple retail thefts on her record and several incarcerations. She was homeless, had a learning disability, anger issues, little work experience (only in low-paying food service jobs) and no family support. (her parents live on the West Coast)

She started in the RMO Intensive program in December, 2013. Thanks to collaborative efforts between RMO partner agencies like Tabor Services, PA CareerLink of Lancaster County, Wellness Counseling Associates and Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole, B. was able to get the resources and services she needed to quickly stablize and start moving forward. Through the RMO, B was placed in transitional housing, and her assigned RMO case manager helped her make a list of goals she wanted to achieve. The client really knuckled down and started working hard toward those goals.

Within her first month in the program, she was matched with a mentor, completed the initial set of required workshops in the Reentry Employment Program at CareerLink, completed an anger management class and was attending D&A counseling regularly. She earned her Ready2Work certification at CareerLink, and soon afterward, she was placed into not just one, but TWO jobs.

She started saving money toward moving into permanent housing, and met her requirements with probation and parole - staying clean, passing drug tests, and attending all of her appointments.

After less than 6 months in the RMO Intensive program, she moved into permanent housing, and was compliant with all probation/parole requirements.

She was in touch with her RMO case manager as well as her PO recently to report that she is continuing to do well, has a good job, and plans to start classes at YTI in January.

Extraordinary women, extraordinary opportunities

on Friday - November 21, 2014.

"This course showed me that I do have a chance in life - that I can still do things with my life. And it also gave me a different outlook on the outside - this program changed me - gave me strength to keep going forward." ~ Jasmine

This morning at Lancaster County Prison, ten extraordinary women graduated from the RMO's Reentry Course - the comprehensive life skills program that we've been running at LCP since 2011.

These ten women - Brittany, Mary, Jasmine, Melissa, Shea, Sue, Tessa, Heather, Atiya, Tracey – are gutsy, determined, and wise. They demonstrated initiative, persistence and gut-wrenching honesty throughout the program. They deserve a chance at a better future.

But they're also incredibly vulnerable and face staggering hurdles to that "better future." All ten of them have children who were left behind when the women went to prison. All of them have been in and out of prison multiple times. Most of them struggle with addictions. Most of them experienced significant trauma when they were children: abuse, neglect, poverty, hunger . . . And seven of them have nowhere to live when they get released from Lancaster County Prison. All of them will be released within the next couple of months - in the dead of winter.

The RMO can help them - but only if we have funds to provide the safe housing, case management, treatment and other services these women, and many other inmates like them, will need when they are released.

Will you consider making a donation to the RMO through the "DONATE" link on our home page? 

Your support can make a world of difference to help Brittany, Mary, Jasmine, Melissa, Shea, Sue, Tessa, Heather, Atiya, Tracey and others to make a new life outside of prison for themselves and their children.

Thank you for considering a donation to help the RMO to continue to work with people the rest of society has thrown away and forgotten.

Collaboration is key to successful prisoner reentry

on Sunday - October 26, 2014.

The United States Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance carried out a multi-year initiative to determine best practices in prisoner reentry. The findings of their study, conducted in partnership with the Urban Institute and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, are reported in the publication: "Life After Lockup: Improving Reentry from Jail to the Community."

Among their findings are the following:

"Collaboration across disciplines and jurisdictional boundaries is at the core of jail reentry, and in recent years, the field has seen an explosion of creative and productive partnerships between jails and law enforcement, probation, faith-based organizations, mental health clinics, victim advocate groups, the business community, and a variety of other social service and community providers." (pg. xv)

The Lancaster County RMO is exactly such a collaboration across disciplines and jurisdictional boundaries. The RMO partnership was founded in 2005, and includes most of the organizations in the community that have been working with people coming out of prison ("returning citizens"). Many of these organizations have been serving returning citizens for a decade or longer.

By working collaboratively, the organizations in the RMO have been able to identify the most pressing reentry needs in the community, provide high quality services in the most efficient and effective way, and minimize wasteful duplication of programs and services. The partners in the RMO have also been able to effectively address systemic issues that hamper successful reentry and have implemented creative community-based solutions to these issues.

In the 2013-14 fiscal year (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014), the RMO partner agencies provided coordinated reentry services to fifty-one medium-to-high risk returning citizens at a cost of $24.17 per client per day (compared to a cost of $68.81 per inmate per day to re-incarcerate them at Lancaster County Prison.) The services provided to these clients included:

• 1,762 hrs of case management
• 3,691 person-nights of transitional housing
• 12 drug & alcohol evaluations
• 257 Foundation Skills Assessments
• 564 hrs of RMO Reentry life skills classes to 47 LCP inmates
• 96 hrs of Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Group sessions to 64 returning citizens
• 20 hrs of legal advocacy

The result? Reduced recidivism at Lancaster County Prison, improved lives for RMO clients, and savings for Lancaster County's taxpayers.  (for more on the Lancaster County RMO and the 57% cut in county funding for RMO services over the past four years, see this LNP article)

The "Life after Lockup" report continues:

"Because inmates will soon return to their home neighborhoods, community-based organizations are key in the transition process. Jail reentry will not be successful without jail-community collaboration." (p. 22)

The organizations who are partners in the RMO collaboration include:
• Amiracle4sure
• Behavioral Health Solutions of PA
• Beth Shalom
• B.I.R.D. Ministries
• Center for Community Peacemaking
• Compassionate House Aftercare
• Faith Tabernacle Church of God in Christ
• Justice and Mercy
• Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13
• Lancaster City Police Department
• Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole
• Lancaster County Assistance Office
• Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness
• Lancaster County Commissioners
• Lancaster County District Attorney
• Lancaster County Drug and Alcohol Commission
• Lancaster County Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
• Lancaster County Prison
• Lancaster County Public Defender
• Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board
• Mental Health America
• Mid Penn Legal Services
• Naaman Center
• Neighborhood Services
• PA CareerLink of Lancaster County
• PA Department of Corrections-Probation and Parole
• Spanish American Civic Association
• Tabor Community Services
• Transitional Living Center
• Transition to Community
• Victim/Witness Services-Lancaster County District Attorney's Office
• Water Street Ministries
• Wellness Counseling Associates

 

Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Groups in Lancaster

on Monday - September 08, 2014.

The Lancaster County RMO, in partnership with Bridge to Community, is launching Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Groups in Lancaster, starting Sept 17, 2014.

These groups are for any returning citizen looking for encouragement, positive role models and information on resources and strategies to help them become successful, productive citizens in the community.

The groups are led by highly successful returning citizens who understand both the challenges of having a criminal record AND the positive pathways to success in overcoming those challenges.

Every Wednesday (starting Sept 17, 2014)
7:00pm – 8:30pm
@ Ebenezer Church
701 North Lime St
Lancaster, PA 17603
(corner of Lime & New)

These groups are based on a highly successful model that started in Harrisburg about 5 years ago. An independent evaluation of these groups found that participants who attended at least 16 weekly sessions have a 96% SUCCESS RATE (only a 4% chance of recidivism/returning to prison) The PA Board of Probation & Parole endorses these groups and has advocated for launching these groups in every county in Pennsylvania. We're delighted to now be offering them in Lancaster.

Click here for a flyer for the Lancaster groups.