GED opens doors for proud graduate

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Thursday - June 19, 2014.

GED opens doors for proud graduate

On Thursday evening, June 12, Zena Gunsallus did something that, 10 years ago, she didn't know if she'd ever be able to do. She walked across the stage at McCaskey East High School wearing cap and gown to accept her GED diploma. Five days later, on Tuesday, June 17, she had another graduation: from Lancaster County Drug Court.

"I dropped out of school when I was 17 in my senior year of high school because I was pregnant," Gunsallus explains. "I didn't have a great life." She struggled with addiction, and wound up in and out of Lancaster County Prison. She spent four years trying to complete Drug Court.

"I made plenty of mistakes," she admits. "Finally, I realized I needed to change my life," she says. 

"I had always known I wanted to go to beauty school, but just never had the motivation." She knew that to get into beauty school, she'd have to have her GED. She started taking GED classes offered by IU13 at Lancaster County Prison through a US Department of Education grant program called PRSCEO - Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities. The PRSCEO program was initiated at the federal level because "a growing body of evidence shows that providing offenders with education and training increases their employment opportunities, addresses their cognitive deficits, and helps reduce their likelihood of recidivating."*

Lancaster County is one of only three sites in the nation that has received a grant from the US Department of Education to implement this model. Lancaster County's IU13 Adult Education and the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO) partnered to submit the grant application and have been working closely together since July 1, 2013 to implement the program here. The program includes GED Preparation classes and Adult Basic Education classes at both Lancaster County Prison and PA CareerLink of Lancaster County. Participants also receive assistance with career and education planning and have the opportunity to participate in supportive reentry services through the RMO as well as reentry employment services like the Ready2Work program and occupational skills trainings at the CareerLink. Trish Link, Assistant Adult Education Director for IU-13, manages the project. 

The GED classes for women at LCP are taught by IU13 instructor Mary Edith Leichliter.

"If it wasn't for Mary Edith at the prison, I would not have pursued this at that time," Gunsallus says.

Several weeks into her GED classes at the prison . . .

Investing in reentry

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Thursday - May 08, 2014.

A recent piece in the Detroit News, titled "How Prisoner Re-Entry Lessens Crime", highlighted the following:

"Statistics show that about two-thirds of all criminal offenders will commit new crimes after their release from prison. Rather than releasing them at the conclusion of their sentences and hoping for the best, focusing on this population’s successful re-entry into our community is an essential part of a successful crime reduction strategy . . . Tough-on-crime platitudes make it convenient to dismiss or ignore the offender population, but effective crime control requires developing strategies to enable former offenders to succeed as citizens after they have paid their debt to society." 

The Lancaster County RMO has been working since 2005 to provide resources, mentoring and opportunities to Returning Citizens to help them become productive citizens and remain crime-free.

We carefully track and report outcomes for the clients we serve in our programs.

In the cohort of RMO clients we have been tracking since 2011,

only 17% of RMO Intensive program clients have committed new crimes


the 66% national average (two-thirds) cited in the Detroit News article. 

Compare the cost of the services provided by the RMO to the cost of incarcerating people at Lancaster County Prison:

Avg cost to provide intensive RMO reentry services: $23.60 / person / day

Avg cost to incarcerate at Lanc Co Prison:               $59.16 / person / day

You can find our latest outcomes reports here on the RMO website, under Programs & Services / Outcomes. 

To support our work, see the "Donate" link at the top of the RMO website home page.

(link to the full Detroit News piece:

Lancaster County's Strategic Plan for Reentry

on Friday - April 11, 2014.

The Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO) Board of Directors, the RMO Providers group, and the CJAB Reentry Strategic Planning Subcommittee have reviewed and prioritized input on strategic priorities for reentry that were gathered from 15 separate stakeholder interviews, with 68 participants representing 41 agencies over the past six months. Here is the County’s Comprehensive CJAB Strategic Plan and the Strategic Plan for Reentry. 

Employment for Returning Citizens: Key to Success

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Tuesday - December 10, 2013.

Employment for Returning Citizens: Key to Success

A brand new white paper from the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, in partnership with the US Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, provides an integrated strategy for reentry and employment for Returning Citizens.

According to the white paper, "Policymakers across the political spectrum agree that for people released from prison or jail, employment can be the gateway to successful reentry."  They cite evidence from Bureau of Justice Assistance and Urban Institute studies that demonstrate that getting returning citizens employed can reduce recidivism, and that returning citizens themselves cite having a job as key to avoiding criminal activity.

The white paper outlines a comprehensive resource allocation and service matching tool and advocates for an integrated service delivery approach that includes eight program components for reentry employment programs...

Somebody GOOD

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Monday - November 11, 2013.

“For the first time, I feel like I can do something with my life, like I can be somebody. Somebody GOOD.”   ~ Amy, age 40, RMO Reentry class participant 

Think of a time when you felt like other people cared about you, like you were "somebody special." What was that like? Call up those good feelings again and savor them for a moment.


Now, can you imagine feeling like no one cares what happens to you? Like you've been rejected by society?


Amy was in the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO) Reentry Course at Lancaster County Prison last week. She said, "Society doesn't care about us in here. It's like we don't exist. And when we come out of prison back into society, they don't want us out there either."

In some ways, Amy is right. Some people think we should lock criminals up and throw away the key.

But 95% of the people in our prisons WILL BE RELEASED back into our communities someday.

With 1 in 100 American adults currently incarcerated and 1 in 31 under corrections control (probation/parole, prison, etc), the odds are EVERY community has people who have been in prison.

Imagine that some of them are living in YOUR community. What would help you to feel safe?

The RMO partnership has proven that providing coordinated, intensive reentry services to help people coming out of prison can improve community safety, reduce recidivism** and save the taxpayers money***, while helping clients become productive citizens and remain crime-free.

When Amy completed the RMO Reentry Course, she said, "This helped me feel like I'm a real person again. For the first time, I feel like I can do something with my life, like I can be somebody. Somebody GOOD."


** Nationally, about 67% of people released from prison are re-incarcerated within 3 years (67% "recidivism rate")
RMO clients' recidivism rate: 28% (mostly technical parole violations)
Only 9% of RMO clients have committed new crimes. We know that's still too high. We've got lots more work to do. Your donation will help!

*** Avg cost to incarcerate at Lanc Co Prison:               $59.16/person/day
      Avg cost to provide intensive RMO reentry services: $23.60/person/day