Seven Lancaster County Human Services Workers Get OWDS Certification

Written by Scott J. Sheely on Saturday - November 26, 2011.

Lancaster:Seven members of the Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS) team of the Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization completed their training in October and were recognized by the Lancaster County Commissioners at the meeting of the Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday, November 16, 2011.

OWDS is a national initiative from the National Institute of Corrections that promotes skill development and collaboration to improve employment outcomes, including job retention, for those re-entering the community from jails and prisons. The effort will result in lower recidivism, higher rates of employment, savings to taxpayers, and a reduction in the costs of incarceration.

Members of the Team underwent 180 hours of training to obtain this certification and they were among the first in Pennsylvania to be awarded the nationally-recognized OWDS credential. Team members include...

• Danielle Bednarczyk - Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR)
• Joan Shindel - OVR
• Jameson Collins - OVR
• Melanie Snyder - Re-Entry Management Organization
• Kay Knight - Neighborhood Services
• Tony Haws - Lancaster County Prison
• Larry Washington - Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole Services

This Lancaster team will now bring what they have learned back to Lancaster County by offering trainings for other Lancaster County professionals who work with offenders and ex-offenders. These trainings will cover essential skills and best practices to assist people coming out of prison to find employment.

Mythbusters: Fact Sheets from National Reentry Resource Center

Written by Scott J. Sheely on Sunday - May 08, 2011.

Washington, DC: Recently, the National Reentry Resource Center offered a series of fact sheets called  Myth Busters to clarify existing federal policies that affect formerly incarcerated individuals and their families. Click here for a downloadable copy of the series of Myth Buster; click here for the latest Reentry in Brief.

Each year, more than 700,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons. Another 9 million cycle through local jails. When reentry fails, the social and economic costs are high -- more crime, more victims, more family distress, and more pressure on already-strained state and municipal budgets. Because reentry intersects with health and housing, education and employment, family, faith, and community well-being, many federal agencies are focusing on initiatives for the reentry population.

Under the auspices of the Cabinet-level interagency Reentry Council, federal agencies are working together to enhance community safety and wellbeing, assist those returning from prison and jail in becoming productive citizens, and save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration. For more information about the Reentry Council, click here

The Price of Recidivism

Written by Scott J. Sheely on Sunday - May 08, 2011.

Russell Nichols, Governing, April 14, 2011:

It's just not fair, is it?

Somebody commits a crime, goes to prison, then gets out of prison, only to go back faster than you can spell recidivism. And you're paying for it. Big time.

According to the Pew Center on the States, more than four in 10 offenders return to prison within three years, and across the country, the rate of this revolving door has been fairly consistent - even though prison spending has spiked to $52 billion a year.

About 43 percent of prisoners released in 2004, and 45 percent of those released in 1999 were back behind bars within three years for committing a new crime or violating terms of their supervised release, according to state corrections data.

The Pew study - one of the most comprehensive reports of its kind - comes at a crucial time with states locked up in budget bedlam. This data gives policymakers evidence that goes beyond anecdotal, and forces them to face the math. As they crunch numbers (or more accurately, argue about crunching numbers), they can ask critical questions: What's working? What's not working? Can a strategic shift in state corrections systems lead to financial freedom?

Help Wanted - 65 Million Need Not Apply

Written by Scott J. Sheely on Sunday - May 08, 2011.

The Lookout, March 23, 2011:  In 2008, Johnny Magee, who is developmentally disabled, was laid off from his landscaping job in Livermore, California, thanks to government budget cuts. He applied for a new position as a garden center attendant at a nearby Lowe's Home Improvement store. Despite his prior experience, Magee wasn't hired. Why? A background check had turned up a 1999 misdemeanor conviction, stemming from an incident in which he unknowingly picked up a package for his uncle that contained drugs. Later that year, Magee's conviction was dismissed-but that was too late for him to get the job at Lowe's.

Sixty-five million Americans-or one in four adults-have a criminal record. But employers-including major companies like Bank of America, Omni Hotel, and Domino's Pizza-routinely post job ads on Craigslist that explicitly exclude such applicants, according to a new report conducted by the National Employment Law Center (NELP), a labor-affiliated advocacy group.

The practice appears in some cases to be against the law, and at a time of record long-term joblessness, advocates for the poor say it places yet another obstacle in front of people like Magee, who are working to get their life back on track. In addition, there's widespread agreement that helping those with criminal records to find stable employment is crucial for preventing recidivism and preventing future crime. Indeed, that's the reason that the government runs programs designed to make it easier for ex-offenders to find work.