Pennsylvania Prison Society
Mentor, Outreach, and Empowerment Coordinator
Project Goal: We envision that the reentry peer support group Hope Alive will provide a structured opportunity for returning citizens to meet, discuss, compare notes, learn, bring in community resources and connections as well as build strength and empowerment. Our goal is to help shift the approach of returning citizens towards more proactive and more self sustaining one that by creating an affirmative and positive Hope Alive will include monthly sessions where re-entrants will meet for discussion, assistance and workshops over the course of one year. Small incentives will be offered to participants, and snacks and refreshments as well as SEPTA tokens will be provided. The Prison Society has worked with many strong organizers and facilitators who have lived the experiences within the criminal justice system. These individuals will be asked to join the group as mentors, speakers and workshop or peer groups facilitators. The Outreach and Empowerment Coordinator would be responsible for overseeing this program under the direction and assistance of the Executive Director. The group would have a monthly theme, and workshop and discussion topics would be centered around this, as well as an open forum portion where discussion could take place, and a resource share with educational component centered around how to access these resources or services. Topics would be those identified by group members as ones involving participants most pressing needs, but suggested topics may include: education, employment, community supervisions, current criminal justice policy initiatives, housing, substance abuse and recovery, managing finances and budgeting, and family reunification. Prison Society staff will assist the Outreach and Empowerment Coordinator in developing a loosely-structured curriculum and key discussion points for each group session. By providing accurate information, education and support and access to experts, participants will expand their knowledge base and be more empowered to direct their futures and integrate themselves back into their families and communities.
The mission of the Pennsylvania Prison Society (Prison Society) is to advocate for a humane, just and restorative correctional system and promote a rational approach to criminal justice. We recognize that constructive corrections is essential to help repair the damages of crimes to both victims and communities. In this way, we can approach healing the effects of incarceration on individuals, families and communities with education, restorative justice and advocacy for better prisons, fair treatment of prisoners and support for ex-offenders, families and communities. The Prison Society believes that a compassionate and humane approach towards prisoners, support and advocacy for their families and assistance with reentry transition will enrich all facets of society and advance the well-being of the entire community at large.
Address 245 N. Broad St. Ste. 200
Total number of Agency Staff Members 11
Agency Budget 850,000
The fellow’s duties and responsibilities:
-Design discussion and support sessions between mentors and reentrants.
-Develop an open curriculum of programing intended to encourage interaction between mentors, reentrants and outside speakers and facilitators with criminal justice experience who can provide expert guidance and support.
–Participate in meetings with mentors and reentrants
-Plan and schedule monthly peer support meetings, events and
-Partner with the agencies who do job development to identify potential good employee candidates for job placement programs.
-Participate in outside speaking engagements representing the Prison Society as needed. Keeping records of all workshops and individual meetings with clients.
-Work as part of the reentry team to find new resources and approaches to strengthen life skills curriculum and overall re-entry program.
-Train other Prison Society staff about the reentry issues facing former offenders. Actively participate in staff meetings.
-Identify returning citizens who are interested in participating the program and maintaining a contact database of their information, attendance, involvement in suggested outside programs and follow-up.
-Develop and disseminate promotional materials such as posters or flyers, as well as promoting the group through print, online and social media where appropriate.
-Under the direction of the Executive Director, recruit interview and supervise a team of mentors who will work with members
-Develop and distribute materials to mentors and reentrants listing resources, information and contacts that will assist outside support to participants.
Research and Administrative
-Conduct and share research gathered about successful area programs offering social services, educational programs and resources to reentering citizens.
-Track and documenting program enrollments and services utilized by participants, attendance of participants
-Keep records of all workshops and individual meetings with clients.
-Work with Prison Society’s Official Visitors Program for their input and possible participation.
-Mediate and resolve communication problems that could occur between reentrant participants and mentors or others.
-Creating and conducting other workshops for specialized populations of former offenders as appropriate.
-Lead workshops for former offenders on employment and provide information and assistance with resume writing, conducting job searches and interviewing
Skills/qualifications a fellow should have to succeed in the position:
-Graduate of or enrollment and interest in a Bachelor’s Degree program in Social Work, Psychology, Sociology, Criminal Justice or similar major.
-Experience working, volunteering or interacting in a correctional facility halfway-house, substance-abuse rehabilitation or recovery center a plus.
-Demonstrated 6 months experience volunteer or work experience with organizations on outreach and community education efforts for underserved populations.
-Experience with member recruitment and developing and distributing promotional materials
-Experience with facilitating small groups, workshop and group activities.
-Excellent writing skills, and some coursework or experience with compiling statistical data for use in reports and studies.
-Solid office and technology skills, including MS Office (Word and Excel).
– Experience with utilizing print and social media for recruitment, communications and marketing.
-Spanish language skills a plus.
-Strong organizational skills, and demonstrated experience with scheduling events, meetings and handling administrative tasks related to position.
-Patience and the ability to work with different personalities.
– Teamwork: Understands own role on the team and accepts responsibility for team results. Places team’s interest ahead of own interests; ensures cooperation within own area and across Pennsylvania Prison Society. Demonstrates the acceptance of diversity of others.
– Responsibility: Takes responsibility for outcomes and results. Adheres to agreed-upon time schedule or plan and identifies the resources required to successfully attain goals. Determines appropriate approach to complete tasks or assignments and is persistent in working toward desired outcomes.
– Creativity: Seeks improved systems to accomplish business goals and objectives. Specifically evaluates and implements best practices in the maintenance of tracking ongoing staff employment requirements. Adds value to the organization by taking prudent risks and is willing to act on new ideas and trends.
– Communication: Ensures that others understand the message. Speaks, writes, and listens effectively. Appropriately persuades, influences and negotiates. Shares information concisely and timely manner.
– Problem Solving: Identifies problems in a timely manner and proactively when the opportunity exists. Works effectively with team members when problems require interaction with multiple team members. Gathers and analyzes information skillfully. Develops alternatives and solutions.
Specific community need that the Philly Fellow will address:
The Prison Society has worked with many inmates and individuals returning from incarceration over the years. More recently our clients have made repeated requests for us to provide a forum for discussion, networking, resources and self-empowerment. Many of the individuals returning from prison have been incarcerated for years and have few professional skills, limited resources, and are grappling with numerous other challenges related to reentry. They may have lived in poverty prior to incarceration and have little hope for obtaining a good job. Now with a criminal record, the threat of being caught in the cycle of poverty is real. By providing a peer support group that provides perspectives on how to navigate the realities of reentry based on member-identified needs, the group will assist and empower each other in learning new skills and approaches, networking with agencies that provide employment training and contacts, enrolling in educational programs, and connecting with available social services. The need for a reentry mentoring and support group in Philadelphia is immense. In the last twenty years, rates of incarceration have skyrocketed. It is anticipated with a new focus on mass incarceration that there will be more of ex-offenders will be released into the community in the coming years. A program such as this is becoming increasingly necessary. As any of the individuals who are presently incarcerated approach release in the upcoming years, a support network system such as this could prove to be invaluable in preventing recidivism and building hope. As of 2012, the rate of incarceration in the United States reached nearly 7 million, and it is estimated that almost 650,000 prisoners are released from prison each years. With 51,000 incarcerated in Pennsylvania, and 8,000 incarcerated Philadelphia County in particular,we are now facing a significant reentry problem, with tens of thousands being released in the city with a criminal record which will bar them from employment opportunities and an untold number of family members and communities adversely affected. This problem is evidenced in statistics which has been calculated to be at a staggering rate of 65% overall, the second highest in the state of Pennsylvania. According a study conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Philadelphia’ County’s 3-year re-incarceration rate from state prison stands at 43%, and at 60.1%, Philadelphia County has the highest rate of re-arrest within a three year period, compared to Pennsylvania’s benchmark median rate of 43%. With regards to arrest or re-incarceration to a state prison, Philadelphia’s overall recidivism rate over a three year period is 65.5%. At the local level, 58% of people released from the Philadelphia Prison System are re-incarcerated to that same system within three years. Note: Statistical data courtesy of Bureau of Justice Statistics website,Correctional populations in the United States, 2012 (NCJ 243936)
How the new capacity created by this fellow will help strengthen the community and alleviate the problem:
The Prison Society seeks to create Hope Alive, a peer support group and mentoring group for returning citizens in an effort to promote collective activism focused on resolving criminal justice issues, assisting reentrants with accessing social services and available resources, and formulate action steps to facilitate systemic change. This proposed group will offer a forum for discussion, information exchange, guidance and peer mentoring facilitated by mentors with lived experience navigating the criminal justice system. Session topics will be decided by group members on a monthly basis. The group will also provide participants with the opportunity to give and receive support related to the reentry process, thus reducing the likelihood of recidivism and inspiring success. It will encourage individuals to lead productive lives, and be a positive influence on their families and communities. The primary goal of Hope Alive will be to provide information, resources and assistance for returning citizens so they are better equipped for challenges they may experience, as well as support from peers and mentors who have lived the prison experience,or have experience with criminal justice issues.
Level of community involvement in the fellow’s project:
Returning citizens and their families often find it difficult to obtain employment, housing, quality healthcare and access to other needed services and resources due to criminal justice backgrounds. Unfortunately, the prison experience and poverty often go hand in hand. Many prisoner are from poor neighborhoods, and many have few skills and inadequate education. Being incarcerated and living with a criminal record impacts more that just the individual who is directly affected; it radiates outward, impacting family members and entire communities. Families suffer in the absence of a loved one, who in many cases is a parent or caretaker as well. Communities suffer due to a depleted workforce and lack of strong leaders. The vicious of incarceration and recidivism has often been referred to as a revolving door, where people come in and out, and then back in again. Incarceration, even for a brief period time, stigmatizes and creates serious barriers to obtaining counseling, housing, obtaining financial aid, achieving educational goals and securing and sustaining gainful employment. The problems have expanded with more and more families and communities negatively impacted. Community involvement is extremely important, not only with providing needed resources and programs but also to help members integrate back into the community and feel welcome. We plan to assist reentrants with assessing the direct services of the many of the agencies who are already part of the Prisoner Reentry Network, our web-based resource database that we launched with the purpose of identifying agencies and their ability to assist reentering citizens. We also work with many community-centered agencies that are focused on addressing criminal justice issues, such as Why Not Prosper, the ACLU of Philadelphia, ICJ, PhillyFight, TCRC, Decarcerate PA and Hearts on Wire, Impact, JEVS and the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition.
The organization’s experience operating anti-poverty programming of this nature:
The Prison Society has been in operation for 228 years and have kept true to our commitment to supporting prisoners, ex-offenders and their families most of whom are in poverty. Our prison me ntoring programs have become the more structured aspect of informal work the Prison Society has done for over two centuries. One of the Prison Society’s most successful programs was Philadelphia ReNew. This program was active for three years At the end of our pilot year, where we enrolled 75 men, we had a recidivism report that showed 97% of Philly ReNew participants had successfully avoided returning to prison. In 2010, an average of 94% of Philly Renew participants have successfully avoided returning to prison. Unfortunately, federal funding for these programs ended programs were not able to be continued. We envision the Hope Alive to be based on a similar Philly Renew Program that was engaging for all, with more emphasis would be on employment issues. However, while the Philly ReNew program worked with fathers with criminal records to prevent recidivism and improve employment/education and personal outcomes for participants, the Hope Alive program would be focused primarily on anti-poverty, job readiness and employment opportunities. The major focus is on peer support, affirmation and discussion. Like Philly ReNew, Hope Alive will incorporate peer support mentoring and most importantly, becoming a meeting place that returning citizens look forward to attending. It will be a place that would provide opportunities to compare notes, learn from each other and develop tested resources.
Fellow orientation plan:
Training and orientation of the Fellow will include: -Introduction to Prison Society staff and board -Familiarity with all Prison Society procedures/ HR info -Attendance at staff meetings -Scheduled meetings with former clients -Tours at prisons and scheduled meetings with inmates -Access to the information on the Prisoner Reentry Network -Frequent check-ins with supervisor -Mentoring and training by program directors mentors in prison mentoring
Name and title of the fellow’s immediate supervisor: Ann Schwartzman; Executive Director
Plans for supervision of the fellow:
The Fellow will have scheduled weekly sessions to meet and/or on as-needed basis with Executive Director and relevant staff. This would be supplemented by frequent informal discussions, beginning with supervisor attending with Fellow to discuss projects and progress of the program. Regular conversations with staff and Executive Director about administrative tasks related to the position will be held. The Executive Director maintains an open door policy with all staff, and this includes phone/ emails. The Fellow would be able closely work with supervisors of the prison mentoring project at SCI Chester, New Leash on Life, TCY, and others.
Will fellow be working at the same address listed above?
Will the fellow have their own…
Office? Fellow will share
Desk? Fellow will share
Computer? Fellow will not be provided with
The approximate percentage of time the fellow will work…
As a team member in a group setting 33%
As a team leader in a group setting 33%
Will the fellow be expected to travel as part of the position? Yes
If so, how often and where? Travel will vary. Some of the work will take place in the office, but there will be a number of days in the community throughout Philadelphia and in the prisons where we have the Mentoring Initiative.
Will the fellow need the following to carry out the position…
A driver’s license? No
Their own car? No