Successful Reentry Program in Pennsylvania Prepares to Close

By Steve Rempe | Posted July 2, 2012

A successful reentry program in Philadelphia is being discontinued, the victim of budgetary cutbacks in Pennsylvania.

Philly ReNew, a program initiated by the 224 year-old Pennsylvania Prison Society, boasts a 70 percent success rate, having helped more than 400 men in prison (all parents) obtain GED degrees and find employment.  Unfortunately, the loss of a $600,000 annual grant from the state of Pennsylvania forced the program to discontinue its services on June 15.

“Re-entry programs have been proven to decrease recidivism,” program manager Pam Superville tells the Philadelphia Tribune. “As of June 30 we won’t be able to adequately serve these men with the concentrated assistance they need. If an ex-offender finds a job but has no home, what’s he going to do? We know that cuts to these programs will eventually lead to more individuals going back to prison.”

Superville says that the Philadelphia Prison Society has reached out to individuals and organizations in the private sector for support, as well as urging elected officials to reconsider.  Thus far, they have been unsuccessful.

“It’s not just about finding jobs,” says life skills coach and job coach Cameron Holmes, “but about teaching them to be men — to be politically active and active in their communities.  They have to learn how to be fathers.” Cameron served 22 ½ years in prison for burglary and robbery.

“After June 30, if clients come in and need help, we’ll still help them as much as we can, but it won’t be able to be on the same level,” he says.  “Do we really want to take this away from them?”

The society is working to save the program.  An online petition is available for supporters to sign, and key legislators are identified for lobbying.

While it is understandable that state and local governments have to make difficult decisions about what programs to fund, cutting reentry programs such as Philly ReNew seems particularly short-sighted.  There is empirical evidence to suggest that reentry programs – specifically faith-based programs like Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative – have a significant impact on reducing recidivism rates.  And programs that assist former inmates in finding employment can reduce the number of these men and women who rely on government assistance.  Long-term, such programs are likely to save money for the very governments proposing these cuts.

To find out more about Prison Fellowship’s reentry programs, visit http://www.www.www.prisonfellowship.org/reentry/.  And to learn how you can be part of the solution to high recidivism rates in your state, visit our Get Involved pages.




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