Four churches and a seminary signed covenants Wednesday in a show of support for the recidivism-fighting work of the RMO for Returning Citizens, a Lancaster nonprofit that is ending its biggest program after the apparent loss of county funding.
After eight years, the RMO, or Reentry Management Organization, is no longer accepting new clients into its Intensive Program, which last year provided temporary housing and case management for about 50 parolees who were at moderate to high risk of returning to prison.
The RMO, a program of Community Action Partnership, decided to not compete for a new county contract. It said the county’s latest funding proposal for reentry services limits housing support to $1,000 per client, too little to support the RMO’s 90-day program.
“The county has decided that they have other priorities for the funding that used to support that (Intensive) program, and that is certainly their prerogative,” Melanie Snyder, RMO director, said at the signing ceremony at Lancaster Theological Seminary.
Snyder stressed, however, that the RMO, a collaboration of more than 40 organizations since 2005, will continue to offer support groups, trainings and other services.
The RMO’s decision not to compete for a new county contract means for-profit Geo Reentry Services of Florida is the only bidder for post-release services to Lancaster County Prison inmates.
Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace, a featured speaker at the ceremony, praised the RMO’s mission of “changing lives and spirits.”
“The work you do is transformative,” she said. “It shows people a model of society that is just and reclaimative.”
Signing covenants Wednesday were representatives of Grandview United Methodist, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, the Healing Racism Working Group of Lancaster Friends Meeting, the Justice and Mercy Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster, and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
“We stay involved because Grandview is a church that believes fully in the inclusion of all people and that past mistakes don't necessarily have anything to do with future success,” Jane Dutton, a Grandview member, said in an interview.
Dutton expressed concern that the county will now fund an outside company that lacks the RMO’s track record and understanding of the community’s needs.
“I'm heart broken that the (county) hasn't been able to recognize the grassroots energy of the community under Melanie’s and everyone's superb direction,” Judy Hurlbut, a Unitarian church member, said.
After the ceremony, Sorace told LNP said she questioned why the county would not want to fund intensive case management and temporary housing for the most vulnerable parolees.
“I believe that more resources are needed, not less,” she said.