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PA Department of Corrections Establishes New Guidelines for Reentry Services in the Community

‘This is About Using Our Budget Dollars Wisely’: PA. Corrections Dept. Establishes New Guidelines for Former Inmates Seeking Help

Stephen Caruso - October 30, 2019

As it tries to plug a $140 million budget hole, the state Department of Corrections has started screening inmates who want help securing housing, employment and other support services after they’re released from prison.

The new policy, announced in a memo to agency staff and contractors in mid-October, is part of an ongoing effort to rein in spending on reentry services — the wide array of programs designed to deter recidivism and help former inmates get back on their feet in their communities.

The department spent $18 million on those services in the 2018-19 fiscal year that ended on June 30. It hopes to shave that figure down this year by $2 million — an 11% decrease.

The agency’s total budget for the current fiscal year is $2.1 billion.

“This is about using our budget dollars wisely,” Kelly Evans, the deputy secretary for the department’s Office of Reentry, told the Capital-Star.

The Oct. 16 memo outlines new eligibility criteria for people seeking housing, workforce development, family counseling and mentoring services.

They represent the first formal guidelines the department has adopted for its reentry programs, Evans said. The goal is to help staff target inmates who have a “moderate to high risk” of reoffending after they’re released.

Corrections officials say they hope the new policy will bring a degree of order that was previously lacking in the agency’s reentry programs, which inmates can access after receiving referrals from a prison staff member or parole agent.

But at least one attorney who works with incarcerated people worries about the impact the changes will have on recidivism rates.

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