2012 Children of Incarcerated Parents Awareness Conference Starts the Conversation

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Thursday - July 26, 2012.

"My son was 3 years old when I went to prison. He was 16 when I came out," Sandra Johnson, CEO and Founder of Kon-nectingservices, Inc, told the audience at Lancaster's first "Children of Incarcerated Parents Awareness Conference" last Friday. 

Sandra shared moving stories of her personal experience as a mother in prison, and her son, Danny, now 27 years old, spoke about his experience as well, growing up without his mother. Fortunately, their story has a happy ending, and both Danny and Sandra have been deeply involved in helping children of incarcerated parents and their families in Lancaster County through after school and summer camp programs run by Kon-nectingservices.

But for the estimated three million American children who have an incarcerated parent, life is full of challenges. In Lancaster County, while there are no official figures, it is estimated that at least 1500 local children have a parent who is in prison or jail, and thousands of others have a parent who is on probation or parole . . . 

New Pew Report: "High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms"

on Monday - July 16, 2012.

A new report by the Pew Center on the States reports that prison sentences have lengthened dramatically in the past 20 years, costing states millions of additional dollars. Yet, the report says, "For a substantial number of offenders, there is little or no evidence that keeping them locked up longer prevents additional crime."

According to the Pew research, in Pennsylvania, "The average offender released in 2009 served 32% more than the average offender released in 1990" at a total added cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers of $316.6 Million. Length of time served by PA's violent offenders grew 44% between 1990 - 2009, and length of time served by PA inmates charged with drug offenses also grew 44% in that same time period. As of 2009, Pennsylvania also had the second longest average length of time served in the US.

Click here for the full Pew report.

Click here for the PA Prison Time Served State Factsheet.

PA Prison Reform Bill Signed by Gov. Corbett

on Monday - July 09, 2012.

Last week, Governor Corbett signed Senate Bill 100 into law. The new law puts into place some, but not all, of the recommendations of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a bipartisan panel of judges, lawmakers, state cabinet members and other officials that has been studying ways to increase public safety in Pennsylvania and reduce spending on corrections.  

Provisions of the new law include:

* diversion of nonviolent offenders with substance abuse issues to local treatment programs instead of sending them to state prisons

* elimination of the pre-release program for state prison inmates (the pre-release program allowed inmates with good disciplinary records to be moved to halfway houses prior to their parole)

* diversion of illegal immigrants who commit nonviolent crimes to immigration authorities rather than sending them to state prisons

Key recommendations of the Justice Reinvestment working group were not included in the new legislation, including a process for returning some of the savings realized from the other changes to local jurisdictions, though legislators may revisit this when the legislative sessions resumes this fall.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

May 23, 2012 presentation on the recommendations of the Justice Reinvestment Working Group 

Harrisburg Patriot News article about the new law 

June 7, 2012 WITF Radio SmartTalk interview with members of the Justice Reinvestment Working Group

RMO Success Story: Living Proof

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Thursday - June 28, 2012.

At 6'2", with broad shoulders, and a deep bass voice (think "James Earl Jones" and go down a notch), Zach might not look like a man who'd recite poetry. But reciting, reading, and writing poetry are some of his favorite activities.

He recites a line from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet:

"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."

Zach should know. He's experienced enough sorrow in his 50 years for several lifetimes. "I was physically abused as a child. I got to a point where I got used to it. I didn't cry any more, but it developed a hatred and anger within me," Zach says. When Zach was eleven, his mother died, and he was moved, first to Philadelphia then to New York, where he lived among drug dealers and gangs. Zach was shot four times, but survived each shooting. "It was a violent upbringing," he says. Eventually, it was a path that led to prison over two decades ago, when Zach was a young man . . .