What Success Looks Like

on Thursday - November 19, 2015.

People returning to the community after being in prison face numerous barriers to becoming productive, law-abiding citizens: unemployment, lack of education, addiction, mental health issues, family problems, difficulty finding landlords who will rent to them or employers who will hire them. Yet, without resources to address these barriers, they may wind up committing more crimes and returning to prison. And that's bad for ALL of us.

This is where the RMO comes in. We're all about ensuring that people returning to our neighborhoods after being in prison have the Resources, Mentoring and Opportunities they need to get their lives on track and remain crime-free. That's the ultimate definition of "success" for the people we serve.

Last year, 85% of the people in our RMO Intensive program remained crime-free.

But that's only one of many definitions of "success" for our RMO program participants. Here are some recent other successes they've achieved . . .

For James and Tracy, leaders in the RMO's Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Group, one recent success was being featured speakers at a community-wide forum in September on the criminal justice system and the challenges of re-entering society after being in prison.

One of Jill's latest successes was being invited to go on a leadership development trip to Washington, DC to hear Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, speak to an audience of over 500 community leaders. She also recently earned her 16-week certificate in the Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Group, and just moved into her own apartment, after being in the RMO's transitional housing at TLC.

At this week's Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Group meetings, participants reported these other successes:

"I finally got a job and started working this week!" ~ Tina

"I'm starting to really understand how my actions have affected my family. I'm working on making amends." ~ Mike

"I stayed out of jail and been doing right for a whole year now!" ~ Craig

"I'm pursuing my GED after being out of school for forty years." ~ Julius

"I've been talking with my 14 year-old son about doing the right things, not following in the path I took when I was his age." ~ William

The RMO is participating in the ExtraOrdinary Give and we're asking for YOUR SUPPORT by making a donation to the RMO during the ExtraGive. You'll be investing in the success of the people we serve.

Here's what President Obama said recently about the importance of investing in reentry:

"There are people who have gone through tough times, they've made mistakes. But with a little bit of help, they can get on the right path. And that's what we have to invest in. That's what we have to believe. That's what we have to promote." ~ President Barack Obama, November 2, 2015

Keisha redefines having a "rich life"

on Monday - October 19, 2015.

Keisha redefines having a

We're doing a series of interviews with people who have been involved in the RMO, through StoryCorps, the national project that "provides people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone's story matters." 

Here's one of our interviews, with Keisha, who talks about listening to mentors, overcoming adversity, defying expectations, raising her children, what it means to have a "rich life", and giving back to the community she once harmed.

Here's the link to Keisha's interview:



Successful RC group celebrates 1 year anniversary in Lancaster

on Monday - September 21, 2015.

Successful RC group celebrates 1 year anniversary in Lancaster

This past Wednesday, the Lancaster County Successful Returning Citizens’ Mentoring Support Group celebrated their 1 year anniversary. During the first year, the weekly group meetings have been attended by 134 people at various stages in their transitions back into the community after incarceration. The meetings continue to grow, attracting more people who are seeking the support and positive encouragement the group offers.

What is the Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Group, you may ask? It's a peer-led support group that offers encouragement and motivation for those seeking inspiration from people who have been in their shoes at one time or another. The purpose of the group is to take away any excuse to go back to jail through positive role models, a focus on success, connecting people with resources, and strategies for how to pursue a positive future.

The groups are based on a model program developed in Dauphin County six years ago. An independent study of the Dauphin County RC group showed that an individual has a 96% success rate when they attend 16 or more weekly meetings.

The RMO partners with community mentors from "Bridge to Community" to provide additional support and resources to the group.

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center recently published an article that reinforces the importance of peer-led support groups, like the Lancaster Successful RC group. These peer mentors are unlike any other mentor one can find; they have lived the life many returning citizens are struggling to overcome. Not only do people feel more comfortable opening up to a peer mentor, but the mentor offers a positive example of what they can become. The CSG Justice Center article points out that peer-mentors who are  successful and have secured housing, employment, and sobriety are able to give advice and insight only someone who has had to reintegrate themselves into society can give. Mentoring others also serves as a way for those individuals to give back to their community and gives a purpose to the path they chose, according to the CSG article.

During the first year, the Lancaster Successful RC group has had some special guests, including Lancaster City Mayor Rick Gray, who said, "Attending this support group meeting was both inspirational and encouraging. These returning citizens show a commitment to achieving success -- no matter how difficult, -- that is nothing short of inspirational. Just as the support group members encouraged one another, I too am encouraged that returning citizens have access to this very powerful and positive resource to help support their reentry into the community."

The Lancaster Successful RC Mentoring Support Group always welcomes new members with open arms. Meetings are held:

* every Wednesday at 7:00pm to 8:30pm at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 701 N. Lime Street, Lancaster, and

* every Friday from 1:00pm to 2:30pm at Lancaster CareerLink, 1016 N. Charlotte Street, Lancaster.

The Justice Center article is available at: 


Why hire returning citizens?

on Sunday - August 30, 2015.

The Huffington Post recently released an article titled “Five Bottom Line Reasons Why Employers Should Hire Ex-Felons”. The article brings to light the relationship between recidivism and employment, statistics from the Bureau of Justice regarding returning ex-offenders, and the new movement for The National Hire Ex-Felons Campaign. The article reinforces the idea that the longer an ex-offender stays unemployed, the more likely they are to seek other means of income, often leading them to reoffend.

There is a stigma of risk attached to hiring ex-felons. However, hiring members of this vast population returning to society brings with it opportunities to pay back debts to society, provide for families, and reduce the rates of recidivism. The article states 5 main reasons employers should hire these returning citizens:

  1. Hiring incentives for employers such as tax credits, subsidies, and bonds.

  2. Employee reliability with lower turnover rates.

  3. Hiring opportunity due to a massive pool of employable ex-felons that are often already undergoing drug testing and supervision.  

  4. Economic impact in turning a “criminal liability into a community asset”.

  5. Crime market disruption by providing acceptable means of income to individuals that are at risk of reoffending.  

At the Lancaster County CareerLink, the staff of the Reentry Employment program specialize in helping clients overcome barriers to employment when they have a criminal background. CareerLink is a resource where these individuals can go to receive education, skills training, employment counseling, and job hunting assistance.

The original Huffington Post article is available at: 



Eliminating Barriers-Part 2

on Saturday - August 22, 2015.

Here's more from the "One Strike and You're Out" report from The Center for American Progress which highlights several key statistics:

  • 70 - 100 million Americans now have a criminal record (nearly 1 in 3 people)
  • mass incarceration and the collateral consequences of a criminal record are tightly linked to the poverty rate in the US; one study estimated that the US poverty rate would have dropped by 20% in the last two decades of the 20th century if it weren't for these impacts
  • the costs of mass incarceration to the American economy have been estimated in a variety of ways, including a negative impact on the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of up to $65 Billion annually due to "the cost of employment losses among people with criminal records"
  • America spends over $80 Billion per year on mass incarceration - and these are funds that are then NOT available for things like education, healthcare, infrastructure and other resources that could contribute to a better quality of life in communities

The report includes this quote from the "My Brother's Keeper Task Force":

"We should implement reforms to promote successful reentry, including encouraging hiring practices, such as “Ban the Box,” which give[s] applicants a fair chance and allows employers the opportunity to judge individual job candidates on their merits as they reenter the workforce."

Among its many recommendations, the report outlines several ideas for "fair chance" hiring practices:

1) Remove questions about an applicant's criminal record from job applications (commonly known as "Ban the box") and only do a background check once the employer is seriously considering hiring the job applicant

2) Completely eliminate and even prohibit questions about arrests that didn't result in a criminal conviction

3) Let jobseekers review and verify the accuracy of any information about them that comes up on a background check

4) Provide opportunities for jobseekers to share information about the positive efforts they have made to improve themselves