New Prison Reform Partnership Begins in Pennsylvania

Last week, Safe Streets & Second Chances announced a new partnership with Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to end the cycle of recidivism in Pennsylvania. This coalition seeks to use evidence-based, data-driven approaches to prepare offenders for their release from prison.

Over the next few years, Safe Streets & Second Chances will assist Goodwill and the DOC with research and data analysis as Pennsylvania changes its methods for rehabilitation and reentry. The agency will work with incarcerated individuals from the day they enter the prison system through the months following their release to prepare them for reentering society. That work includes job training, mental health support, substance abuse treatment and other programs that prepare individuals to live outside of prison and never return.

“What we’re trying to do with our program is to change the trajectory,” said Mark Holden, general counsel for Koch Industries and chairman of the advisory council for Safe Streets & Second Chances. “What it’s about is rehabilitating people while they’re in prison,” he continued, to prepare offenders to live healthy and productive lives once they’re released.

These evidence-based approaches to reentry work. States including Texas, Kentucky and South Carolina have established criminal justice reforms that have reduced recidivism rates and assisted offenders in returning to society as successful members. The approaches can work in Pennsylvania, too.

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said, “this is not about the right or the left. This is about people and outcomes.” Members of all parties and political ideologies are coming together to support approaches to criminal justice reform that are backed by data and research.

This smart-on-crime approach will keep Pennsylvanians safe, reduce the recidivism rate, and relieve taxpayers from the burden of an ineffective corrections system. Most importantly, it will provide a much-needed second chance to people who are eager to transform into positive members of society.