According to the Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services for Ex-Offenders, thousands of people are released from state, local, and federal detention centers each year, making the successful reintegration of ex-offenders, both juvenile and adult, a critically important workforce and public safety issue in the Philadelphia region.
Without serious intervention, two-thirds of these ex-offenders will commit new crimes and return to prison within three years.
In an effort to break the cycle of recidivism, the School of Social Policy & Practice’s (SP2) Goldring Reentry Initiative (GRI) is hosting “Breaking Down Walls: Intersections of Mass Incarceration and its Implications” on Saturday, March 16, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at International House.
The panel discussion and resource fair, which is free and open to the public, will feature 30-40 agencies, service providers, and organizations that will address the social problems that often lead to incarceration, such as drug addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, a lack of employment opportunities, and the role of transitional or reentry programs.
Erica Zaveloff, a GRI event coordinator and second-year MSW student at SP2, says the program is open to anyone who has been impacted by the criminal justice system, or is interested in the topic—students, advocates, former inmates, and loved ones of people who are currently or were previously incarcerated.
“Because [the event] aims to create conversations among people that do not traditionally interact, the vendors are not limited to criminal justice organizations,” Zaveloff says. Legal, mental health, and community development agencies have also been invited.
Service providers such as the Institute for Community Justice and the Pennsylvania Prison Society will be on hand, as well as advocacy groups such as Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and Amnesty International.
The day will begin with a light breakfast at 8:30 a.m.; Glenn Martin, vice president and director at The Fortune Society, an ex-offender support organization, will provide opening remarks. Marc Lamont Hill, an associate professor of English education at Columbia University Teachers College, will deliver the keynote address in the afternoon.
Nancy Franke, a GRI event coordinator and second-year MSW student at SP2, says that, traditionally, individuals who are incarcerated meet with a social worker prior to their release from jail or prison, but without continuity in care, valuable time is spent establishing new relationships with different social workers upon release—time that could be used to address immediate needs.
“The high economic and social costs of large prison populations impact all of our communities,” she says.
Originally published on March 14, 2013