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

 

About the Author

Melanie G. Snyder

Melanie G. Snyder

Melanie G. Snyder serves as the Executive Director of the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO). She was a featured TEDx speaker at the first-ever TEDx event in Lancaster.  http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Breaking-out-of-prison-thinking 

She is an NIC-certified Offender Workforce Development Specialist, a certified Global Career Development Facilitator, and a certified instructor for the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Healing Communities model. She is also a trained restorative justice mediator.

Prior to Melanie's involvement with the RMO, she spent several years researching and writing the book Grace Goes to Prison: An Inspiring Story of Hope and Humanity (Brethren Press, 2009), which tells the true story of a woman who volunteered in Pennsylvania's state prisons for over 30 years, creating inmate education and reentry programs based on principles of restorative justice. After Grace Goes to Prison was published, Melanie traveled throughout the United States, doing speaking engagements and meeting with other reentry and restorative justice professionals to discuss criminal justice issues and exchange information and ideas.