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

 

In Their Own Words - Participants' Voices - RMO Reentry Course

on Tuesday - February 24, 2015.

This is the first of a series of articles in which people in various RMO programs will share their perspectives and experiences.

First up, reflections from a few of the women who graduated from a recent RMO Reentry Course at Lancaster County Prison:

* "Taking this 6 day class helped me out alot. It showed me that I do have a chance in life. That I can still do things with my life. And it also gave me a different outlook on the outside. I really think that this program changed me, gave me strength to keep going forward, and can't wait to move forward and work with the program on the outside." - Jasmine

* "I feel that this class is very informative and basically helps teach us about Lancaster County's resources so that I can use them as tools to help myself when I do get out of prison. I feel that it helps remind us that we aren't alone. Sometimes I think that some of the presenters aren't aware of how hard it is to get the ball rolling and finding support, that we need somebody to personally hold us accountable for our actions and stipulations to even begin being somewhat successful." - Melissa

* "This course has really gave me a different outlook on my release. It has answered all my questions on what to do. Thank you, so so helpful!!. Gave me some hope to change my life. I enjoyed this program and hope to keep up with the RMO program on the other side of these walls." - Tessa

The RMO Reentry Course is a 12-hour pre-release reentry and life skills course for men and women incarcerated at Lancaster County Prison. This course is for people with a criminal record who have encountered barriers to success and want to learn skills and get information on resources that can help them become productive citizens and remain crime free. The instructors are subject matter experts from RMO partner agencies with extensive experience serving people being released from prison to overcome the barriers associated with a criminal background.

Participants receive a workbook that includes individual transition planning and goal setting worksheets with questions based on motivational interviewing principles.

This course consists of six two-hour sessions, covering the following topics:

- Community and Legal Resources: covers all programs, agencies and resources listed on the Self Sufficiency Reference Guide that we have created in partnership with United Way of Lancaster County. Participants will receive a free copy of the Guide.

- Housing, Transportation and Managing Your Money: this session explains the connections between where one lives, where they work, transportation options and one's financial situation all fit together. The session covers basic information about finding housing, what landlords expect, transportation options, and basic money management skills.

- Family Responsibility and Parenting, and Getting Along With Yourself and Others: This session covers the characteristics of strong families, information on how incarceration impacts families and children, and tips for reconnecting with family and children after release from prison or jail. It also covers tips for establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, resolving conflicts peacefully and creating a network of positive support people.

- Health Care and Mental Health: This session covers the basics of taking care of your physical and mental health, including diet, exercise, basic medical care, managing stress and managing anger.

- Addiction, Relapse Prevention and Wellness: This session helps participants to understand the roots of drug and alcohol addiction, addiction warning signs, relapse triggers, relapse prevention, and the basic building blocks of physical, emotional, and social wellness.

The course and workbook also include information and connections to the Reentry Employment Program and services at PA CareerLink of Lancaster Co.

Graduates receive a certificate from the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO) that becomes part of their file at LCP. Copies of the certificate can also be given to the graduate's parole officer, sentencing judge and others, at the graduate's request.

This course is also an entry point to the RMO Intensive program, which provides intensive case management, transitional housing and a wide range of other services upon release from LCP through the network of about 30 partnering agencies who are involved in the RMO collaboration. 

The RMO started this program in partnership with LCP in 2011, and now has over 150 graduates.

RMO Intensive Client Progress - Second Chances for Mr. M

on Saturday - January 31, 2015.

Mr M. is a 47 year-old male, who has a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder with severe alcoholism and anger issues. He had no family support and nowhere to live upon release from LCP. The client had spent most of the two years before coming into the RMO in and out of prison. His PO indicated that he had never been able to stay out of jail for more than a couple of months at a time.

He came into the RMO Intensive program for the first time in October, 2012. The RMO provided transitional housing and assigned an RMO case manager. The RMO case manager worked with the client to lay out a detailed set of goals, action steps and due dates, and helped the client get set up with a drug and alcohol evaluation. After the evaluation, the client started attending AA/NA meetings and weekly individual and group D&A counseling.

He enrolled in the Reentry Employment Program at CareerLink, completed the initial required workshops and quickly earned his Ready2Work certificate at the "Gold" level.

The client was interested in working with computers and hoped to start his own small business, so the RMO case manager got him connected with SCORE. The client worked with SCORE to develop a business plan for a computer repair business. He completed "Metrics" computer training courses through the CareerLink and over a period of about 4 months, he successfully started up a small computer repair business and had some clients.

He moved out of the RMO transitional housing, began making payments on his fines and costs, and was attending AA/NA meetings regularly. He had been on SCRAM monitoring when he first came out of LCP and he successfully completed his term of monitoring to have the monitor removed. The client also did volunteer work for a local church, and enrolled in "Rite of Christian Initiation" classes to be accepted into membership in the Catholic church.

When he was discharged from the RMO in March, 2013, he was working steadily, making regular payments on his fines and costs, attending AA and NA meetings, and doing well.

A couple of months later, he had a DUI charge. He contacted his RMO case manager and requested another chance with the RMO program to help him get back on track. The client came back into the RMO in June, 2013. The RMO case manager and the client drew up a highly detailed "recovery plan" that included further D&A treatment and counseling, as well as a mental health evaluation.

The RMO Case manager and the client also worked closely with the client's PO. The PO discussed the client's situation with her supervisors and Adult Probation & Parole agreed to put the client back on electronic monitoring instead of re-incarcerating him.

The client had gotten engaged, and at the urging of the RMO case manager, the client and his fiancée started attending counseling together. By July, 2013, the client had been placed in a full time job as a roofer making $12/hour, was maintaining sobriety and attending drug and alcohol counseling and receiving mental health treatment.

Today, a year and a half later, the client continues to stay in touch with his RMO case manager and recently reported that he is continuing to work as a roofer and is doing very well.

RMO Intensive Client Progress - B's Story

on Wednesday - December 31, 2014.

B. is a 21 year-old female, who had been doing drugs since she was 16, had multiple retail thefts on her record and several incarcerations. She was homeless, had a learning disability, anger issues, little work experience (only in low-paying food service jobs) and no family support. (her parents live on the West Coast)

She started in the RMO Intensive program in December, 2013. Thanks to collaborative efforts between RMO partner agencies like Tabor Services, PA CareerLink of Lancaster County, Wellness Counseling Associates and Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole, B. was able to get the resources and services she needed to quickly stablize and start moving forward. Through the RMO, B was placed in transitional housing, and her assigned RMO case manager helped her make a list of goals she wanted to achieve. The client really knuckled down and started working hard toward those goals.

Within her first month in the program, she was matched with a mentor, completed the initial set of required workshops in the Reentry Employment Program at CareerLink, completed an anger management class and was attending D&A counseling regularly. She earned her Ready2Work certification at CareerLink, and soon afterward, she was placed into not just one, but TWO jobs.

She started saving money toward moving into permanent housing, and met her requirements with probation and parole - staying clean, passing drug tests, and attending all of her appointments.

After less than 6 months in the RMO Intensive program, she moved into permanent housing, and was compliant with all probation/parole requirements.

She was in touch with her RMO case manager as well as her PO recently to report that she is continuing to do well, has a good job, and plans to start classes at YTI in January.