Successful RC group celebrates 1 year anniversary in Lancaster

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Monday - September 21, 2015.

This past Wednesday, the Lancaster County Successful Returning Citizens’ Mentoring Support Group celebrated their 1 year anniversary. During the first year, the weekly group meetings have been attended by 134 people at various stages in their transitions back into the community after incarceration. The meetings continue to grow, attracting more people who are seeking the support and positive encouragement the group offers.

What is the Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Group, you may ask? It's a peer-led support group that offers encouragement and motivation for those seeking inspiration from people who have been in their shoes at one time or another. The purpose of the group is to take away any excuse to go back to jail through positive role models, a focus on success, connecting people with resources, and strategies for how to pursue a positive future.

The groups are based on a model program developed in Dauphin County six years ago. An independent study of the Dauphin County RC group showed that an individual has a 96% success rate when they attend 16 or more weekly meetings.

The RMO partners with community mentors from "Bridge to Community" to provide additional support and resources to the group.

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center recently published an article that reinforces the importance of peer-led support groups, like the Lancaster Successful RC group. These peer mentors are unlike any other mentor one can find; they have lived the life many returning citizens are struggling to overcome. Not only do people feel more comfortable opening up to a peer mentor, but the mentor offers a positive example of what they can become. The CSG Justice Center article points out that peer-mentors who are  successful and have secured housing, employment, and sobriety are able to give advice and insight only someone who has had to reintegrate themselves into society can give. Mentoring others also serves as a way for those individuals to give back to their community and gives a purpose to the path they chose, according to the CSG article.

During the first year, the Lancaster Successful RC group has had some special guests, including Lancaster City Mayor Rick Gray, who said, "Attending this support group meeting was both inspirational and encouraging. These returning citizens show a commitment to achieving success -- no matter how difficult, -- that is nothing short of inspirational. Just as the support group members encouraged one another, I too am encouraged that returning citizens have access to this very powerful and positive resource to help support their reentry into the community."

The Lancaster Successful RC Mentoring Support Group always welcomes new members with open arms. Meetings are held:

* every Wednesday at 7:00pm to 8:30pm at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 701 N. Lime Street, Lancaster, and

* every Monday from Noon to 1:00pm at Lancaster CareerLink, 1016 N. Charlotte Street, Lancaster.

The Justice Center article is available at: 

https://csgjusticecenter.org/nrrc/posts/for-the-formerly-incarcerated-peer-mentoring-can-offer-chance-to-give-back/

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.