Lancaster County Prison this week has started issuing every prisoner a pamphlet — “Roadmap to Successful Re-entry” — to ease the transition back into the community after incarceration. The pamphlet, which fits easily in a pocket, offers advice, resources and to-do lists to complete before and after being released. The prison releases a dozen or more inmates a day and 6,000 a year.
This week is National Re-entry Week. What better time to recognize the Lancaster County Prison’s efforts to reduce recidivism?
Recidivism occurs when former inmates resort to the same behavior that earlier landed them in prison. But when inmates are plunged back into a world — sometimes without money, food, a home, a job, transportation or health care — it is easy to slip back into troublesome lifestyles.
It is the prison’s job not only to incarcerate criminals, but to educate them on healthier and safer ways of life.
Lancaster County Prison, along with the local Re-Entry Management Organization, are doing just that, and we applaud them for it.
The prison has taken advantage of the great resources this county has to offer.
For example, current inmates can:
- Earn their GEDs through the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, or their diplomas through the School District of Lancaster.
- Enroll in New Beginnings, an all-female course at the downtown YWCA that focuses on transitioning to life after prison.
Former inmates can:
- Find a job through CareerLink.
- Access treatment for drug or alcohol addiction through the Lancaster Drug and Alcohol Commission.
- Receive support for mental health issues through Mental Health America.
Within the first 24 hours of their arrival at the prison, inmates are given the “Roadmap” to help them once they leave. It’s a simple, pocket-sized reminder that some still care.
Inmates may lose touch with friends and family — even their children. Some are dismissed by employers because of their record. Some are unable to rent a home or buy a car because of their lackluster credit history.
Prison — where at least food and shelter are provided — could seem like heaven after struggling to survive in the outside world.
But we believe prison should be the last place on a former inmate’s mind.
Those with criminal records — depending on the severity of their crime — should not be shackled by a past mistake. They deserve the opportunity to forge a life for themselves and their families, to be productive members of society, and to contribute to their communities.
Melanie G. Snyder, executive director of the local re-entry organization, says some former inmates give back in the form of mentoring or participating in a support group for other people just released from prison.
That’s what it all comes down to: providing opportunities to those who wish to take advantage of them. It’s how our country works. And we’re proud that Lancaster County’s criminal justice system has followed suit.