New National Report on Fines, Costs, Restitution Proposes Solutions to "Debt Penalty"

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Monday - August 10, 2015.

Researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research & Evaluation Center have just published an in-depth report titled "The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration." The report explores the various types of fines, fees, restitution and other financial obligations placed on offenders, the purposes of these obligations, the various approaches employed to collect on these debts, reasons offenders don't pay, the penalties associated with non-payment, the hidden costs to both the legal system and offenders of common debt collection practices, and the effects of criminal debt, including a variety of consequences related to employment, education, housing and other aspects of life for offenders upon release from incarceration.  

The report also explores connections between criminal debt and recidivism.

The report provides statistics and information from various states around the US (including some from Pennsylvania)

The report then proposes a variety of solutions that criminal justice entities can employ to "increase the likelihood of payment whil lessening the financial burden on offenders." These solutions include improved practices for setting fee amounts, prioritization of fees, tracking debt, improving restitution collection, improving child suppport collection, processes for offenders to "earn back" their eligibility for certain types of public assistance, and alternatives to incarceration for non-payment.

An executive summary is available at:

The full, 20-page report is available here: 

Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Groups in Lancaster

on Monday - September 08, 2014.

The Lancaster County RMO, in partnership with Bridge to Community, is launching Successful Returning Citizens Mentoring Support Groups in Lancaster, starting Sept 17, 2014.

These groups are for any returning citizen looking for encouragement, positive role models and information on resources and strategies to help them become successful, productive citizens in the community.

The groups are led by highly successful returning citizens who understand both the challenges of having a criminal record AND the positive pathways to success in overcoming those challenges.

Every Wednesday (starting Sept 17, 2014)
7:00pm – 8:30pm
@ Ebenezer Church
701 North Lime St
Lancaster, PA 17603
(corner of Lime & New)

These groups are based on a highly successful model that started in Harrisburg about 5 years ago. An independent evaluation of these groups found that participants who attended at least 16 weekly sessions have a 96% SUCCESS RATE (only a 4% chance of recidivism/returning to prison) The PA Board of Probation & Parole endorses these groups and has advocated for launching these groups in every county in Pennsylvania. We're delighted to now be offering them in Lancaster.

Click here for a flyer for the Lancaster groups.


American Bar Association highlights collateral consequences of criminal records

on Thursday - June 27, 2013.

A recent article by the American Bar Association draws attention to the collateral consequences faced by people with a criminal record 

Here's how the article describes collateral consequences:

"any consequences of conviction not handed down by a court. They include a multitude of legal restrictions, the best known of which might be loss of the rights to vote and own a firearm. Collateral consequences also include the unofficial social stigmas that confront ex-offenders, such as trouble finding a job and the damage prison does to the ex-con's skills and abilities."

100th Graduate of RMO Reentry Course at Lancaster County Prison

on Friday - June 14, 2013.

100th Graduate of RMO Reentry Course at Lancaster County Prison

The Lancaster County RMO has just graduated the 100th person from the RMO Reentry Course that's been running at Lancaster County Prison since January, 2011.  The twelve-hour pre-release program covers money management, healthy relationships, parenting and family responsibilities, health and mental health, addiction, relapse and wellness, housing, transportation, and community resources. 

The curriculum was originally developed by the Minnesota Department of Corrections and has been used successfully with every transitioning inmate in Minnesota prisons and jails for over ten years. The curriculum is also listed as a recommended curriculum by the National Institute of Corrections. 

Recent participants have said about the program . . .  

Criminogenic Risk and Behavioral Health Needs Framework tool just released

on Monday - October 01, 2012.

A just-released report from the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, National Institue of Corrections (NIC) and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) outlines a newly developed tool called the Criminogenic Risk and Behavioral Health Needs Framework.

This framework "weaves together the science on risk and needs to provide an approach to achieve better outcomes for adults in contact with the criminal justice system with substance use disorders, mental illness, or both."

This tool can be used at the corrections and behavioral health systems level to prioritize scarce resources based on objective assessments of individuals' risk of committing a future crime and their treatment and support needs. The accompanying report emphasizes the importance of true collaboration between corrections staff and treatment professionals, using interventions both within prison settings and in the community.

The CSG report also addresses myths about connections between mental illness and violence, and focuses on possibilities for recovery and rehabilitation, using scarce resources in the most effective ways possible.

Here's the full report, titled 

Adults with Behavioral Health Needs under Correctional Supervision: A Shared Framework for Reducing Recidivism and Promoting Recovery