MENTORING: “Faith in Action”

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Tuesday - March 27, 2012.

Why Community Outreach Is Vital
  • About 450 offenders are released every month from Lancaster County Prison and return to our local communities.  In addition, roughly 500 formerly incarcerated persons come back annually to Lancaster County from state prisons.
  • Mentoring is an integral part of beginning better lives.   Mentors give guidance and demonstrate healthy, trusting relationships in the quest to help offenders navigate the many challenges and opportunities they will face.
  • The Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization is partnering with Justice & Mercy and Highland Presbyterian Church to offer a new mentoring program, which has been established to facilitate offenders' readjustment to society.

You can demonstrate your own "Faith in Action" by becoming a Community Mentor.

Faith Leaders Embrace Healing Communities Model

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Thursday - March 15, 2012.

Alfreda Robinson-Dawkins of the National Women's Prison Project leads Lancaster County church representatives at Healing Communities trainingLancaster: Twenty-one clergy and lay leaders from eleven different Lancaster County congregations gathered on Saturday, March 10, 2012 for the first "Healing Communities" training in Lancaster County.

Healing Communities is a national, proven model for engaging congregations in the restoration and healing of individuals and families torn apart by crime - whether committed against a member of the congregation or committed by a member of the congregation.

The participants at Saturday's training came from Lancaster County congregations that span the theological spectrum. They came from racially and socioeconomically diverse backgrounds. Some of the churches they represented are very large, some very small, some from the city, others from the county.  But they all had several important things in common.

Employment and Recidivism

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Saturday - March 03, 2012.

Lancaster:  With so many people currently unemployed and looking for work, why help people coming out of prison to get a job?

There's evidence that doing so can:

  • Reduce crime rates
  • Rreduce homelessness
  • Reduce parole violations
  • Reduce recidivism

Helping people coming out of prison and back into the Lancaster County community to find employment is one essential part of the RMO program. The Lancaster RMO's Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS*) team will be offering a training for professionals in social services and corrections who work with clients with criminal records. Here are the details:

Children of Incarcerated Parents Network in Lancaster

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Wednesday - February 29, 2012.

children-iStockLancaster: Recently, a broad-based coalition of organizations joined together to offer programs for children whose parents are incarcerated. The mission of the Children of Incarcerated Parents (COIP) group is to "strengthen the family bonds and developmental assets of children of incarcerated parents and their families". For additional information, call 717-872-7794 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Provide support to the child and their caregiver from the moment of arrest;
  • Refer the family to one of the many local agencies who work with families;
  • Work with schools in helping the child cope with this event in their young lives;
  • Advocate for appropriate visitation facilities and policies for children to have physical contact with their incarcerated parent;
  • Provide support to the child's caregiver.

Members of the coalition include:

Lancaster County Children and Youth, Boys and Girls Club, COBYS Family Services, Restorative Justice,
Kon-nectingservice, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Crispus Attucks Community, Justice and Mercy, Lancaster County Council of Churches, Compass Mark, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Bridge of Hope, Domestic Violence Services, Mental Health America, School District of Lancaster, Tabor Community Services, MidPenn Legal Service, and LINC.

PA Launches Justice Reinvestment Initiative

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Sunday - February 12, 2012.

Harrisburg (WPMT-TV, York, January 27, 2012): Governor Tom Corbett today encouraged members of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a newly-formed panel of judges, lawmakers, state cabinet members and other officials, as they begin studying ways to increase public safety in Pennsylvania and reduce spending on corrections. "The justice reinvestment working group is here to look at the numbers, the costs, thegavel-and-money projections and the system" Corbett told the gathering at the Governor's Residence this morning. "We look to you to come up with solutions to make our system better. I expect this initiative will help reduce further our crime rate, decrease recidivism and manage corrections spending more efficiently."

Led by Mark Zimmer, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, the group will meet regularly during the next several months to review data analysis, hear from local government representatives, prosecutors and public defenders, victim advocates, treatment providers and others, before crafting policy proposals. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative is a comprehensive, research-based approach that identifies factors driving the growth and costs in prison and jail populations. The data-driven model is designed to...

  • Develop and implement policy options to control and lower the costs of the state's corrections system;
  • Improve offender accountability;
  • Reinvest a portion of the savings into the justice system to further reduce corrections spending;
  • Reinvest a portion of the savings into the community to prevent crime;
  • Measure the impact of policy changes.

 

Contributing to the project is the Council of State Governments Justice Center in partnership with the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice. The CSG Justice Center, which has helped policymakers in 15 other states using a justice reinvestment approach, reported the following about Pennsylvania at today's meeting:

  • Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people admitted to prison climbed 46 percent, with much of this growth driven by increases in the number of people convicted of property and drug offenses serving relatively short minimum sentences.
  • Over this same period, the number of people in prison grew 40 percent, from 36,602 to 51,312, and annual Department of Corrections spending increased 76 percent, from $1.1 billion to $1.9 billion.
  • Despite significant state investments in resident programs for people on parole supervision, a 2011 study showed that recidivism has declined but remains high: nearly half of people (44 percent) released from prison were re-incarcerated within three years.

"Today's meeting identifies issues that need to be addressed, and I am confident this group will work hard to use the data and other information gathered to make legislative proposals which will try to strike the delicate balance between public safety and reducing costs through improved efficiencies and prison population reduction," Zimmer said.

"The scale of this effort is exactly what Pennsylvania needs to see the complete connections that take place from the time someone is arrested all the way through discharge to parole supervision," Wetzel said.

"With the extensive data analysis and stakeholder input in this process, policy makers from across the political spectrum will develop strategies that answer a fundamental question we all ask ourselves: What more can we be doing to increase safety in our communities while getting a better return on taxpayers' investment?" "This is an excellent example of officials working together, across systems, levels of government and parties toward the common goal of improving the safety of our state," Corbett said.