New National Report on Fines, Costs, Restitution Proposes Solutions to "Debt Penalty"

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Monday - August 10, 2015.

Researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research & Evaluation Center have just published an in-depth report titled "The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration." The report explores the various types of fines, fees, restitution and other financial obligations placed on offenders, the purposes of these obligations, the various approaches employed to collect on these debts, reasons offenders don't pay, the penalties associated with non-payment, the hidden costs to both the legal system and offenders of common debt collection practices, and the effects of criminal debt, including a variety of consequences related to employment, education, housing and other aspects of life for offenders upon release from incarceration.  

The report also explores connections between criminal debt and recidivism.

The report provides statistics and information from various states around the US (including some from Pennsylvania)

The report then proposes a variety of solutions that criminal justice entities can employ to "increase the likelihood of payment whil lessening the financial burden on offenders." These solutions include improved practices for setting fee amounts, prioritization of fees, tracking debt, improving restitution collection, improving child suppport collection, processes for offenders to "earn back" their eligibility for certain types of public assistance, and alternatives to incarceration for non-payment.

An executive summary is available at: 

http://www.justicefellowship.org/sites/default/files/The%20Debt%20Penalty_Executive%20Summary_Justice%20Fellowship.pdf

The full, 20-page report is available here:

http://justicefellowship.org/sites/default/files/The%20Debt%20Penalty_John%20Jay_August%202014.pdf 

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

on Monday - May 18, 2015.

We recently received this letter from a client in our Reentry Employment Program at PA CareerLink of Lancaster County:

Finding employment in today's economic climate is a daunting task for a "normal" person with "normal" challenges. The difficulties in securing an interview, let alone a job offer, are exponentially increased for an ex-offender who was incarcerated for five years in a state correctional institution. I felt as though I had a Scarlet Letter attached to my back.

Having never been a fan of "government" or "government-related" programs, I was not initially enthusiastic about the prospects of the Re-entry Program at the Lancaster County Career Link. T.A.B.E. test? Aced that in prison. Complete a video course about showing up to work on time, properly groomed and attired? Common sense. How are those things going to assist me in my job search? I must humbly admit I was wrong . . .

RMO Intensive Client Progress - J's Story

on Tuesday - April 07, 2015.

J is a 34 year-old male with a criminal history spanning 15 years that included drug and DUI offenses, burglary, assault and other charges. He had dropped out of high school, but later completed his GED while in prison. He had a history of repeated bouts of homelessness, as well as a long history of alcohol and prescription drug addiction. He also had a history of being physically abused as a child.

He has no family support. He has 3 children but their mother forbids him to see them.

While incarcerated at LCP the client completed the RMO Reentry Course, and then was referred to the RMO Intensive program . . . 

Collaboration is key to successful prisoner reentry

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Thursday - March 26, 2015.

The United States Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance carried out a multi-year initiative to determine best practices in prisoner reentry. The findings of their study, conducted in partnership with the Urban Institute and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, are reported in the publication: "Life After Lockup: Improving Reentry from Jail to the Community."

Among their findings are the following:

"Collaboration across disciplines and jurisdictional boundaries is at the core of jail reentry, and in recent years, the field has seen an explosion of creative and productive partnerships between jails and law enforcement, probation, faith-based organizations, mental health clinics, victim advocate groups, the business community, and a variety of other social service and community providers." (pg. xv)

The Lancaster County RMO is exactly such a collaboration across disciplines and jurisdictional boundaries. The RMO partnership was founded in 2005, and includes most of the organizations in the community that have been working with people coming out of prison ("returning citizens"). Many of these organizations have been serving returning citizens for a decade or longer.

By working collaboratively, the organizations in the RMO have been able to identify the most pressing reentry needs in the community, provide high quality services in the most efficient and effective way, and minimize wasteful duplication of programs and services. The partners in the RMO have also been able to effectively address systemic issues that hamper successful reentry and have implemented creative community-based solutions to these issues.

In the 2013-14 fiscal year (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014), the RMO partner agencies provided coordinated reentry services to fifty-one medium-to-high risk returning citizens at a cost of $24.17 per client per day (compared to a cost of $68.81 per inmate per day to re-incarcerate them at Lancaster County Prison.) The services provided to these clients included:

• 1,762 hrs of case management
• 3,691 person-nights of transitional housing
• 12 drug & alcohol evaluations
• 257 Foundation Skills Assessments
• 564 hrs of RMO Reentry life skills classes to 47 LCP inmates
• 96 hrs of Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Group sessions to 64 returning citizens
• 20 hrs of legal advocacy

The result? Reduced recidivism at Lancaster County Prison, improved lives for RMO clients, and savings for Lancaster County's taxpayers.  (for more on the Lancaster County RMO and the 57% cut in county funding for RMO services over the past four years, see this LNP article)

The "Life after Lockup" report continues:

"Because inmates will soon return to their home neighborhoods, community-based organizations are key in the transition process. Jail reentry will not be successful without jail-community collaboration." (p. 22)

The organizations who are partners in the RMO collaboration include:
• Amiracle4sure
• Behavioral Health Solutions of PA
• Beth Shalom
• B.I.R.D. Ministries
• Center for Community Peacemaking
• Compassionate House Aftercare
• Faith Tabernacle Church of God in Christ
• Justice and Mercy
• Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13
• Lancaster City Police Department
• Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole
• Lancaster County Assistance Office
• Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness
• Lancaster County Commissioners
• Lancaster County District Attorney
• Lancaster County Drug and Alcohol Commission
• Lancaster County Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
• Lancaster County Prison
• Lancaster County Public Defender
• Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board
• Mental Health America
• Mid Penn Legal Services
• Naaman Center
• Neighborhood Services
• PA CareerLink of Lancaster County
• PA Department of Corrections-Probation and Parole
• Spanish American Civic Association
• Tabor Community Services
• Transitional Living Center
• Transition to Community
• Victim/Witness Services-Lancaster County District Attorney's Office
• Water Street Ministries
• Wellness Counseling Associates

 

Healing Communities Training for Clergy and Congregations

on Wednesday - March 11, 2015.

With 1 in 104 American adults currently incarcerated and
1 in 28 Pennsylvanians under criminal justice system control,
the odds are EVERY congregation has members impacted by crime and the criminal justice system, whether as crime victims, offenders or families.

Shame and stigma prevent people from talking about the resulting hurts and harms, or seeking help.

How can congregations create a culture of safety and support for those who need it?

Healing Communities* training offers answers.

Healing Communities is a proven, national model, developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation with faith leaders from across the theological spectrum to engage congregations in the restoration and healing of their own members who have been impacted by crime and the criminal justice system.

Two Healing Communities trainings will be offered in Lancaster County in Spring, 2015:

Friday, May 8, 2015
8:30am – 4:00pm

Ebenezer Baptist Church

701 North Lime St
(corner of Lime & New)
Lancaster, PA 17603

REGISTER ONLINE AT:

http://rmohc-20150508.eventbrite.com

 

OR

Saturday, June 6, 2015
8:30am – 4:00pm

Community Mennonite Church

328 West Orange St

Lancaster, PA 17603

REGISTER ONLINE AT:

http://rmohc-20150606.eventbrite.com

 

Healing Communities training covers:

• Essential information and perspectives on the criminal justice system, current issues, and the impact of crime on victims, survivors, offenders and families

• Relevant questions for reflection and discussion within congregations

• Ideas and resources for pastors and faith leaders to engage congregants

• Tools, information and resources for congregation members

• Resources and dedicated time to develop a customized congregational action plan suited to the culture, demographics and core beliefs of YOUR congregation

COST: $40/person or $100/3 people from a congregation (includes all materials & lunch)
QUESTIONS? Contact Melanie G. Snyder, RMO Executive Director:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or

Phone: 717-572-2110

For a printable flyer, click here

 Healing Communities Instructors