Reentry programs key to reducing recidivism in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel recently told a crowd of prison and community officials that community outreach is the key to reducing recidivism rates in Pennsylvania.

Speaking at a summit to review recidivism levels in Northampton County, Pa., Wetzel reaffirmed his criminal justice reform agenda by stating that offenders need to have access to community programs like mental health care, substance abuse treatment and support groups in order to successfully reenter into society.

“If we want to start doing better, we have to start getting down to the root of the problem,” Wetzel said at the summit.

According to The Express-Times, Wetzel countered an attendee’s dissenting opinion that community support programs are a feel-good but ultimately ineffective solution by stating that miserable prison environments for prisoners do not change recidivism rates and that reentry programs actually give offenders a chance to succeed.

As we’ve written previously, several Pennsylvania counties have partnered with GEO Reentry Services as part of an initiative by the Pennsylvania DOC and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole to expand programs focused on addressing individuals’ risk factors.

Though critics—as evidenced by The Express-Times article—sometimes suggest reentry programs are “soft on crime,” GEO Reentry’s programs are built upon evidence-based practices that target changing criminal behavior, not simply punishing criminal behavior.

Offenders participating in our day reporting centers are intensively monitored and, and based upon their risk level, could require daily check-ins to the center, where therapy, job training, substance abuse, GED prep and life skills classes are held.

Offenders often report to GEO Reentry-run programs for several months to the better part of a year—not including aftercare—during which time they are held accountable for their time and actions by highly trained staff, and are subject to sanctions by their local probation and parole office when they fail to comply with program requirements.

To read more about evidence-based practices and how DRCs can successfully prepare offenders for reentry into society, click here.