Pennsylvania State Agencies Team to Help Offenders Rejoin Society, Succeed

HARRISBURG – Government officials and community service agency representatives have begun a training effort aimed at helping offenders successfully return to their communities after their release.

“When there is an issue that spans several agencies, invested agencies should work together to resolve the problem,” Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said. “This collaborative effort is what citizens should expect from their government – a willingness to work with all parties to resolve a situation.  This is a perfect example of the new culture in Harrisburg under Gov. Tom Corbett.”

The effort, which focuses primarily on helping former offenders find employment, will result in lower recidivism, higher rates of employment, savings to taxpayers and a reduction in the costs of incarceration, organizers said.

“Cabinet secretaries and the governor are working as one to ensure our communities are safe,” said Labor & Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway. “One element of that effort is helping those who have served their time find employment so they can be productive members of society.”

Held at the Department of Corrections’ Elizabethtown Training Academy, more than 30 participants are undergoing 180-hours of training, offered once a week for three months. The first session was held this week. After completing the program, the participants will be able to better connect offenders with services in their communities and will work to train others in the area of offender re-entry.  

Participants include individuals from the DOC, Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, the Department of Labor & Industry’s PA CareerLink® network and Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Penn State University, county prison officials and community service organizations.

The Offender Workforce Development Specialist training is a national initiative that promotes skill development and collaboration to improve employment outcomes, including job retention, for those re-entering the community from jails and prisons.  

The training in Pennsylvania was designed by the National Institute of Corrections and is funded by a $25,000 grant, of which the DOC is the primary recipient.

“This project provides an opportunity to strengthen existing partnerships and establish new ones to address employment risk factors associated with recidivism,” Board of Probation and Parole acting Chair Lloyd White said.  

“With 90 percent of state prison inmates returning home one day, it is in our best interest to help offenders succeed,” Wetzel said.  “This initiative helps us to turn people who once were tax burdens into taxpayers.”

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