Incarcerated at age 16, Giovanni served 26 years and was released at age 43. Even though he spent more than half his life in prison at the time of his release, he immediately began work as a contractor with his brother and became a caretaker for his father, whom he still cares for. He then moved into an apartment to live independently and took several jobs: as a driver for the Marriott Hotel at the Philadelphia airport, at Sarcone’s Bakery in South Philadelphia and at Temple University. He is a highly respected worker, having won a “worker of the month” award.
Several months ago, Giovanni was in a very serious accident. He was hit by a truck, whose driver did not see him on his motor scooter. He required surgery for a broken leg and will be laid up for at least 6 weeks. Nevertheless, his jobs were kept
Photo Credit: Naomieh Jovin
open for him, and his landlord suspended his rent while he was unable to work. All of this is a tribute to Giovanni’s work ethic and reliability.
Giovanni has also been a very active community member. He takes part in a group associated with Menzfit which supports those returning from incarceration in job readiness skills and preparation for working in a professional environment. He has started a group under that larger group called PMG (professional men’s group) for men who were formerly incarcerated and who have become productive members of society, to get together to help other people who are reentering. To join that group, you have to maintain full time employment and perform lots of community work. Prior to Covid, Giovanni had been an active member of the YSRP monthly convening of formerly incarcerated Juvenile Lifers, offering mentoring and support to those returning from long periods of incarceration. (We expect that group to start up again soon.)
Giovanni recently participated in YSRP’s InterGenerational Healing Circle (IGHC), a bi-weekly meeting that includes men who were once sentenced to die in prison as children and have since been released (Juvenile Lifers), and youth client partners of YSRP, who have also encountered the criminal justice system. Together, they explore trauma to heal and share ways to transform this exploration into becoming constructive and trusted members of their respective communities.
Giovanni is a model for others who are returning home. He is caring, funny, warm, and approachable. He is always willing to stretch out a hand to help others and he has the skills and achievements to match his winning personality.
Outstanding Leadership and Accomplishment: Pam Superville
Pam Superville has worked in reentry for the city of Philadelphia at the Mayor's Office of Reintegration Services (RISE) and the Office of Reentry Partnerships, ORP, for nearly a decade. She has served as Case Manager Supervisor, Manager of Reintegration Services and external affairs which included going to community events and engaging with criminal justice stakeholders, in effort to bring more resources and services to the clients served by the office. One of Pam's additional duties was assisting the Seriously Mental Ill (SMI) population at PDP. Pam would work with clients from that population and the team at PDP, with a goal of having their medical benefits activated prior to release, to prevent a lapse in coverage which was necessary to continue critical mental health care post release.
Pam's more recent role at ORP included Senior Manager of Client Services, and in 2021, she was promoted to Acting Deputy Director of ORP. Over the past year, she oversaw the COVID Reentry Payment Program, which provided close to 1,200 people coming out of the Philadelphia Department of Prisons with a one time $500 payment to support their reentry process during the pandemic. The program was the first of its kind.
Prior to her work with the City of Philadelphia, Pam worked for seven years at the Pennsylvania Prison Society. She first worked as a case manager, then did workforce development, and served as Program Manager for the successful men's reentry program Philly ReNew. Pam also served on Philadelphia Reentry Coalition during her time with the Pennsylvania Prison Society, through her time at ORP.
Being a justice involved citizen herself, Pam understood the challenges and pitfalls facing those returning from incarceration, and has worked tirelessly to make their lives better and aid in their path to self sufficiency. She has worked directly in, or was involved in numerous aspects of of the reentry field and has demonstrated her leadership ability which her staff (past and present) as well as other stakeholders and partners can attest to.
Ally of the Year: Jacqueline Starr
Jacqueline Starr has been a JEVS employee for over 20 years and when the Looking Forward Reentry Program launched four years ago, she jumped at the opportunity to not only join the team as a Job Developer, but vested herself in making the reentry program a success. Despite many reentry programs limiting service during the pandemic, Jackie took this as an opportunity to help those coming home from our prisons and jails find gainful employment. Jackie's tireless work networking with employers, placing individuals in sustainable employment, and helping individuals navigate the challenges of reentry has yielded placement of well over 415 participants into career opportunities over the past four years.
Rising Leader of the Year: Michael Butler
Michael creates programs with the Institute for Community Justice that serve returning citizens across Philadelphia. Most recently, he started the Workforce Initiative Network, a paid workforce development program he advocated for after seeing how many people were prevented from participating in programs because they needed to maintain a stable income.
While incarcerated, Michael supported the MannUp, an empowerment program at SCI Phoenix that supports people in achieving their goals and prepares them for life after incarceration. Many men don't have the support or the tools or family that they need to get them through their time. With the support of MannUp, and people like Michael, people are able to get a head start on living the lives they want to live.
Immediately out of the gates of Phoenix, Michael dove in head first to creating opportunity for others in his position at Institute for Community Justice. He proactively seeks out partnerships to serve every minute need for people - from clothing, food, tutoring, animal care, housing, employment.... Michael is well-connected and loved by many in the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition, he's seen as someone who can be relied on for help with nearly any issue. He works tirelessly to support people coming out of jail and prison, and the city of Philadelphia is lucky to have him.
Rising Leader of the Year: Joshua Garner
Joshua Garner was sentenced to a 25 year maximum he was placed in SCI Phoenix, moved to SCI Camp Hill, and eventually placed in SCI Houtzdale, 6 hours away from Philadelphia. While at Houtzdale, Joshua spent a lot of time in the library studying the practice of law. Got in touch with Blackstone Career Institute, who supported him in learning to be a paralegal while serving time. He used his new-founded familiarity with law to advocate for his own release, along with others he met while incarcerated.
Joshua credits many people he met while at Houtzdale, particularly people who were serving life without parole sentences, for getting him on the right path. Once released, he founded an organization called Right to Be Free, that assists men and women who are serving Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentences in obtaining a second chance through clemency. Joshua also creates a bi weekly newsletter that includes columns written by exonerated and wrongfully convicted ex-lifers who are now home. These newsletters are sent directly to those serving LWOP and they are able to submit their stories of achievements and transformation so their voices can be heard. The newsletter is currently distributed at 23 SCIs across Pennsylvania.
Joshua was determined to become a lawyer upon his release, and was recently accepted to Harvard Law School, where he'll be starting in the fall.
Reentry Organization of the Year: Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity
Since 2019, Pennsylvania has been leading the country in pardon reform. Our Governor has issued almost 2,000 pardons — and the Board of Pardons (which has to review and recommend people before the Governor can act) has been approving almost 9 out of every 10 pardon applications they hear.
Since 2018, PLSE has been guided by its clients – people with lived experience in the PA criminal justice system – some 20 of whom have been working together as the Pardons Project Steering Committee (PPSC). The PPSC has been instrumental in expanding the impact that PLSE has had on reforming the Pardons Process in PA.
In addition to assisting people in applying for a Pardon, the PPSC made it their mission to accelerate the pace with which the Governor was reviewing applications for Pardon. The Pardon Project Steering Committee wrote the Governor three times over the summer and early fall of 2020 expressing concern over applications for pardon that had been sitting on his desk for over half a year awaiting review. Receiving no response, they created an online petition that was signed by almost 3500 people. In the summer of 2021, the Governor relented, signing almost 100 pardons, some of which had only been recommended to him a month earlier.
Not only has PLSE been leading this charge, having helped to totally reform the pardon forms and process in PA since starting the Pardon Project in 2018, but they are creating Pardon Projects around the state. Thanks to PLSE's work there are now over dozen newPardon Projects operating in other counties across PA, with more on the way.