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.