The City of Philadelphia recognizes the month of June as Reentry Awareness Month, in support of the estimated 25,000 adults that reenter into the city after being in a prison or a correctional facility each year.
Mayor Jim Kenney has explained that it is “smart and just” to provide those reentering society with the needed resources — support in finding jobs, education, housing — to help them become contributing members of their communities:
“These are individuals who have paid their debt to society, learned from their mistakes and deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as the rest of us. When they successfully rejoin the workforce, they begin contributing to society and paying taxes and are less likely to fall back into old habits.”
Working with the mayor and other city officials, rapper and civil rights activist Meek Mill started to use his platform to speak for the thousands of his peers who aren’t as supported as he was when reentering into society. After his sentence in 2017, and release the following year, he teamed up with a group of partners in founding the REFORM Alliance, fighting to reduce the number of people affected by the criminal justice system, both in prisons as well as on parole and probation.
Of the 25,000 reentering the city communities, one out of three have been rearrested within their first year after returning to the city, according to the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition.
The 110 organizations working together in the Reentry Coalition focus on creating better environments and enacting social change for those reentering city communities. Together they created a five-year “Home for Good” goal to reduce the recidivism rate by 25%, so that by 2021, 2,000 less people would be rearrested within the first year of being released from state or county prison.
Reentry vs. Recidivism
Reentry: refers to issues related to the transition of offenders from prison to community supervision. Reentry on this site refers to persons released from State or Federal prisons or discharged from State parole, Federal parole, or Federal Supervised Release.
Recidivism: measured by criminal acts that resulted in the rearrest, reconviction, or return to prison with or without a new sentence during a three-year period following the prisoner's release.
TYP works with and has trained members working with other Reentry Coalition organizations, like the Institute for Community Justice, featuring TYP-lead classes, and Mural Arts Philadelphia. Through 200-hour yoga teacher trainings as well as work in prisons and other facilities as well as reentry programs, TYP uses trauma sensitive, mindfulness based approach to support those who are incarcerated, in reentry, in communities disproportionately affected by incarceration, and to those working within the justice system.
Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Inquirer paired with Media Justice Fellows from the Reentry Think Tank, who are all living reentry, to share their thoughts on what it means to reenter into society.
One of the fellows, Abd’Allah Lateef, explained that government agencies use the term “reentry” to describe everything and nothing at the same time, adding that there is no standard definition other than when someone returns to society following being incarcerated:
“That definition oversimplifies the issue, reducing it to corrections-speak. Measuring reentry as simply keeping individuals out of prison ignores whether or not those who have stayed out of prison have access to prosperity or sufficient supports that allow them to live with dignity. It ignores their quality of life. We need metrics that instead recognize the fullness of our humanity and of our value. Those of us working in this community often use the term transition instead of reentry, as in transitioning into a life of dignity, meaning, and purpose.”
The Reentry Think Tank partners with the Reentry Coalition to help connect the returning citizens to artists and advocates so they can impact social change within their communities. Since beginning three years ago, the Think Tank has raised more than $30,000 in fellowship programs for returning citizens, engaged thousands through their “Art and Advocacy exhibit: Changing Culture to Change Policy,” and more than 1200 Philadelphians with criminal records have co-authored a city-first Reentry Bill of Rights: A Blueprint for Keeping Us Free.
Studies have shown that support programs, services and guidance is a major factor in reentry into society and lower recidivism rates across the country.
The Prison Entrepreneurship Program helps those who are incarcerated receive an education working to receive a “mini-MBA” that includes character, leadership and business development. After finishing the program and the participant’s release, PEP helps provide transitional housing, employment assistance, counseling and other support services. The program has more than 2,300 graduates, who have reentered their communities by launching more than 360 businesses and every graduate found employment within 90 days of their release.
Most importantly, PEP graduates only have a 7.5% recidivism rate after three years.
Another reeentry program, Hope for Prisoners, provides pre-vocational programming, job placement and mentoring for the first 18-months back in their communities. The participants’ mentors are members of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which the program notes as a major strength in their success with 64% employment post-graduation and a 6% recidivism rate after 18 months.
With these support programs and organizations working together like those in the Reentry Coalition, successful reentry and lower recidivism rates are attainable to connect community members back to their homes, jobs, and families.