Successful RC group celebrates 1 year anniversary in Lancaster

on Monday - September 21, 2015.

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


Eliminating Barriers-Part 1

on Saturday - August 15, 2015.

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."

In Their Own Words - Participants' Voices - Letter from a Client

on Wednesday - August 12, 2015.

We received this email from a client who has successfully completed the RMO Intensive program . . .

"I just wanted to thank you for ALL the help, support, encouragement and guidance that You and all the others provided for me, ultimately loving and caring about me until I could learn to love and care about myself and then in turn learn to love and care about others. I sincerely appreciate all of it as well as all of you....THANK YOU! IN CLOSING I am working for two construction companies owned by the same person which enables "us" his employees to cover a wide array of job descriptions, so me being able there best worker I am a pretty busy guy. Please send my love and regards to all.