Homeless Advocacy Project Shares Stimulus Payment Guide and Instructional Video for Non-Filers

This guide is specifically for people who do not typically need to file taxes: Individuals who made LESS THAN $12,200 in 2019. Married Couples who made less than $24,400 in 2019. SSI & SSDI Recipients and VA Beneficiaries will automatically receive $1,200. However, if you have dependents, you must use this form in order to receive additional money for your dependents. If you have questions about your eligibility and you are currently experiencing homelessness or did not have any income during 2018 or 2019, contact the Homeless Advocacy Project’s Stimulus Payment Information Line at 215-523-9581. Please leave a message with your name and a phone number where you can be reached. A representati

Philadelphia Participatory Defense Hub Schedules

Community-based Participatory Defense Hubs are available to help individuals who face charges navigate the criminal justice system. Trained Hub leaders help participants gain a deeper understanding of the justice process, anticipate what is expected from them at each stage, and prepare for meetings with their attorney and their hearings. Many Hubs have online meetings during the pandemic. See Zoom links below. Defender Association of Philadelphia offers Know-Your-Systems Trainings throughout the city to help individuals, family members, and supporters understand and navigate the process. Contact us to book a training for your agency, community group, congregation, barbershop, or block! For

Center for Carceral Communities is Giving People Free Smartphones When They Get Out of Jail

Dozens of people released from Philadelphia jails since the pandemic began have gotten a phone call from Herb Baker. Sometimes they don’t pick up. Understandable, Baker thinks — it’s a complete stranger calling. So he leaves a message introducing himself. He’s a 55-year-old barber, paralegal and peer counselor. Last year, he walked out just like they did after spending 35 years behind bars. “I’ve been where you’re at,” Baker says into the voicemail, “and I understand there’s confusion and I know how difficult it might seem.” This kind of outreach has steadily grown more common in Philadelphia, the most incarcerated big city per capita in the U.S. But just as emergency measures led to a surge

Help Returning Citizens and Their Families Access Relief and Financial Assistance Programs

In case you missed it, Community Legal Services and Office of Reentry Partnerships collaborated to host a virtual info session to highlight COVID-19 relief and assistance programs currently available to Philadelphians. This included what each one is, eligibility, how to get assistance, and barriers specific to people with court involvement. In the interest of getting information out to as many people as possible, we are sharing a recording of the webinar, the slides that were presented, and a checklist of available income sources we hope will be useful to you. You can watch a full recording of the webinar below. CLS Slides on Connecting People Coming Home to Income Checklist of Financial

Even Before COVID-19, The Number of People Dying in Prison Was on the Rise

Outbreaks of coronavirus have hit prison populations particularly hard – but for many inmates in the U.S., illness and the prospect of dying behind bars already existed. Advocacy groups have flagged concerns about disease transmission, lack of medical care and deaths in custody as a result of COVID-19. But deaths in custody are not a new phenomena and the process of dying with dignity while incarcerated is complicated. I have spent a significant amount of time examining correctional health care practices and believe the process of dying in prison is one in which human dignity can be lost. Prisoners grow old faster and become sick earlier. By 2030 some experts believe that one in three prison

Preparing People for Reentry: Checklist for Correctional Facilities

In light of COVID-19, correctional facilities are tasked with even more critical and time-sensitive decisions. Jail and prison officials, along with their criminal justice partners, are quickly working to reduce the number of incarcerated people to mitigate the spread of the virus among people who are in custody as well as those who work in correctional facilities. To help reduce some of these risks, The Council of States Governments (CSG) Justice Center worked with the National Sheriffs’ Association to develop a concise checklist that assists reentry planners and correctional staff in the transition planning process. The checklist is designed to be a starting place for reviewing the myriad

A Look into Court-Based Behavioral Health Diversion Interventions

Recognizing that people with behavioral health needs are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, many communities have developed alternatives to incarceration that connect eligible people to community-based treatment and supports. While efforts around preventing people from entering the criminal justice system and developing law enforcement diversion interventions are critical to connecting people to treatment community wide, this brief focuses on diversion efforts led by those working in courts, such as judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and court administrators. For information on other diversion opportunities, see Behavioral Health Diversion Interventions: Moving from Individ

No Photo ID, No Services: Coronavirus Poses Steep Hurdles After Prison

Christie Thompson - May 26, 2020 Michael Albuja had only been in Illinois state prison for 18 months when he came home April 28, hoping to pick up his life where he left off. But he returned to Chicago’s Northside missing something small but crucial: photo identification. With government offices closed in a statewide partial shutdown, he has no idea when he might get an ID. Albuja used to work as a forklift operator for a printing company, a job he says was waiting for him when he finished his sentence. But someone in the human resources department broke the news that they couldn’t rehire him without valid identification. “Every single job I apply to, every temp agency I go to, they say the

Pennsylvania Prisons to Begin Lifting Lock Downs Without Universal Testing

Samantha Melamed - May 29, 2020 Pennsylvania state prisons — which have been locked down for nearly two months, keeping most prisoners in their cells at least 23 hours a day — will begin returning to a new normal on May 26 as coronavirus infections ebb across much of the state. “I don’t think it’s smart to keep a whole system locked down,” Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said Friday, outlining a plan that would gradually increase movement of prisoners as counties across Pennsylvania start to reopen. The plan includes quarantining new arrivals, as well as testing those being transferred or released. However, it does not include universal testing because, in Wetzel’s view, the tests can be i

What Pa. Correctional Facilities Will Start to Look Like in Reopening

Joseph Darius Jaafari - May 25, 2020 "Starting this week, state-run correctional facilities in Pennsylvania will ease lockdowns and increase testing of inmates transferring to or leaving prisons. The changes, detailed on Friday, come as prisoner rights groups warn that continuing to confine inmates to their cells for 23 hours a day is causing long-term negative health effects. The lockdown strategy — implemented at all state prisons on March 29 — was meant to be short term, said Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. Wetzel said in a media-only call on Friday that the chorus of voices urging the end to coronavirus restrictions is being echoed by inmates, their family members and ad

What Women Dying In Prison From COVID-19 Tell Us About Female Incarceration

Cary Aspinwall, Keri Blankinger and Joseph Neff - May 14, 2020 Melissa Ann Horn’s name appeared over and over in court records and jail blotters in the rural Virginia county where she was born, and where she was arrested for crimes related to her struggles with meth and money. When she died April 14 of coronavirus she contracted in a state prison for women, Virginia officials wouldn’t even say her name. Women are the less visible victims of COVID-19 behind bars—as they are so often overlooked in a criminal justice system that was not designed for them. Though only a small number have died—at least 13 reported as of Wednesday—their stories illuminate the unique problems women face in prison.

Opinion: Pennsylvania Has Too Many People in Prison, And Far Too Many Elderly

John Hargreaves - May 14, 2020 The recent order by Gov. Tom Wolf to reduce the number of inmates in state prisons due to the COVID-19 outbreak is wise policy. It is also a wonderful opportunity to further address the cost of prison and prison health care. Prisons are very similar to nursing homes in the sense that there is not a lot of social distancing and much of the prison population are also medically vulnerable. We know that about two-thirds of COVID-19 elated deaths in Pennsylvania were nursing home residents. Prisons, with their similar characteristics will be next. We have too many people in prison. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world

District Attorney Krasner Calls for CARES Act Funds to Be Directed to Housing for Returning Citizens

District Attorney Larry Krasner on Tuesday submitted the following public comment to the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services (OHS) on its planned application for $3.8 million in Emergency Solutions Grant funds, which will be awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act: “The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) submits this comment on the Office for Homeless Services’ planned application for the 2020 Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES Act) – ESG-CV funds, through the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) submission to Pennsylvania Department of

Webinar: Inequities & COVID19 - ​The Disproportionate Impact on Communities of Color

Join Penn Public Health for the first seminar in our webinar series that highlights the implications of COVID-19 on communities of color. Penn Public Health is hosting a 3-part webinar series entitled “Inequities and COVID-19: The Disproportionate Impact on Communities of Color” that highlights the implications of COVID-19 on communities of color. This series will focus on long-standing inequities, existing programming and resources, and sustainability post COVID-19 pandemic. The first webinar in this series is called “COVID-19, Health Disparities and Race.” In this webinar, leaders from multiple disciplines including public health experts, academics, and local leaders will highlight histori

Philly Will Now Test Everyone In Its Jails for the Coronavirus

Max Marin - May 19, 2020 Philadelphia will begin coronavirus testing for the 3,800 people incarcerated in its four city jails, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms, officials announced Tuesday. The city’s correctional facilities on State Road experienced an alarming outbreak in late March, which infected dozens within a matter of days — despite stringent lockdown conditions. As of Tuesday, just three people residing at correctional facilities are currently considered positive for the virus. Nearly 200 have been infected to date. Until now, testing has been limited to people exhibiting symptoms. As Billy Penn reported in early May, 75% of all inmates tested in jails came back posit

Broad Street Ministry Looks to Hire Part-Time Front Desk/ Triage Position

Broad Street Ministry has changed up its operations in order to continue to offer baseline services in a responsible and safe(r) way to our neighbors impacted by deep poverty, mass incarceration, mental health challenges and systemic barriers. To move on to "Phase 2" of "the new normal," they are seeking a part-time (at least initially part-time) person to "triage" their guests' needs from their front desk and lobby. Triage Coordinator Reports to: Director of Concierge Services Job Description: The Triage Coordinator provides strategic support to the organizational community and is the first face our guests see when they enter the building. Triage Coordinator will work closely with our Conci

Funding Available for Rapid Re-Housing and Homeless Prevention Services

The Commonwealth of PA, through Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), has received the first allocation of ESG-CV funds, an appropriation of $19,920,655 based on HUD’s federal fiscal year 2020 formula distribution. DCED’s priority for the use of these ESG funds will be to assist homeless providers and communities to prepare for, prevent the spread of and respond to the coronavirus among individuals and families who are homeless or receiving homeless assistance and to support additional homeless assistance and homelessness prevention activities to mitigate the impacts created by coronavirus, while not requiring residency. The City of Philadelphia's Office of Ho

Hundreds Are Being Released from Jail During the Coronavirus Pandemic. But Where Are They Going?

Samantha Melamed - May 11, 2020 Shakeyma Hunlay has never been convicted of a crime, but she spent a year in a Philadelphia jail because she didn’t have $5,000 for bail. Then, in late April, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the jails crept toward 200, the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund came up with the cash to release her. They even gave Hunlay a ride home. But when the petite 25-year-old knocked on the door of her grandfather’s house, she realized she’d been released to a whole new set of problems: “My family moved. I don’t know where they moved to. I don’t have anybody’s number.” Hunlay was homeless, with no photo ID and no job, in the middle of a pandemic. At a time when

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