The following article by Kate Giammarise originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on August 31, 2018.
Charles Koch Institute to fund criminal justice initiative in Pennsylvania
Funding from The Charles Koch Institute will allow Pennsylvanians returning home from prison in Allegheny, Fayette and Washington counties to participate in a national re-entry initiative that aims to help them succeed after incarceration.
Officials from the state Department of Corrections, advocacy organization Safe Streets & Second Chances, Koch Industries and Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania announced the program Thursday at a news conference at Goodwill’s offices in Lawrenceville.
Most people in prison eventually return to their communities, and making sure they re-enter successfully improves their lives, makes communities safer, and saves money, officials said.
It’s also an area of bipartisan agreement.
Mark Holden, general counsel for Koch Industries and advisory chairman for Safe Streets & Second Chances, said the issue makes both moral and fiscal sense.
“This is really a no-brainer,” he said.
Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said the issue can’t be viewed through just a Republican or Democratic lens.
“There’s areas, I think it’s pretty safe to say, the governor would not agree with the Koch brothers on,” he said, alluding to the support of conservative political causes by the billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch. Gov. Tom Wolf is a Democrat. “But this area, in particular, everyone agrees.”
Inmates returning to the community often have challenges such as no high school diploma, a substance addiction or mental illness, Mr. Wetzel said.
The initiative involves studying 2,200 participants across four states and aims to build the capacity of existing re-entry service providers and lower recidivism. In addition to Pennsylvania, the $4 million program is in Texas, Florida and Kentucky.
“To my knowledge, this is the largest randomized control trial of a re-entry program of its kind,” said researcher Carrie Pettus-Davis of the Florida State University Institute for Justice Research and Development.