Philadelphia has consistently led the way in the development of alternative sentencing and diversionary programs for non-violent criminal offenders. These are programs focused on treatment and rehabilitation for those who are dependent on drugs and/or alcohol and those with mental health concerns.
Some of these initiatives include the Domestic Violence Diversion Program, Accelerated Misdemeanor Program, DUI Treatment Court, Future Forward Program, and others. These are all managed within the Diversion Courts Unit. These programs have largely been established in response to data suggesting that certain categories of offenders achieve better outcomes in such programs.
Data on Released Offenders in Philadelphia
More than 8,000 offenders released from prison return to Philadelphia each year. Before 2015, more than 30% of these offenders were subsequently arrested. This is referred to as the recidivism rate, which is the percentage of these individuals that are arrested again within 12 months. An agency known as the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition has established a goal of reducing this rate by 25% by 2021.
Philadelphia Reentry Programs
Reentry is a critical issue, as 93% of all offenders will return to local communities at some time. There is a coalition of agencies that are active in offender reentry programs. There are seven primary categories that these services are focused on as follows:
- Education: Many offenders benefit from achieving their high school equivalency (GED). Various types of vocational training resources are available. Classes for those that are struggling with English as a second language. Computer and digital literacy are necessary for many of these individuals.
- Health and well-being: Both inpatient and outpatient mental health services are now available. The majority of these offenders also struggle with alcohol and/or drug dependency that benefit significantly from proper treatment. Many offenders can now access anger management programming and cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Housing-related: Offenders often have difficulty obtaining housing based on their criminal records. Data has shown that assisting these individuals with accessing subsidized housing is effective. Emergency shelters are available and various types of transitional housing.
- Family-related: There is an increased emphasis on the importance of maintaining child support obligations. Many offenders benefit from assistance in reestablishing child custody and visitation.
- Legal services: Offenders are encouraged to reestablish driving privileges when applicable. Legal assistance regarding the process of criminal record expungement is available.
- Community-related: Various faith-based and spiritual resources are available in the community, as well as assistance with the voter registration process.
- Basic needs: Locations with access to computers for employment-related activity. Help to apply for food assistance benefits and guidance on obtaining key documents of identification.
Center for Returning Citizens
Since 2012, the Center for Returning Citizens has assisted more than 900 individuals in the Philadelphia area. They assist offenders that are re-entering the community in establishing life plans and managing their transition. They also provide resources and assistance for the families of those incarcerated.
Experienced Defense Attorney for Criminal Cases in Philadelphia
Individuals that are convicted of serious criminal offenses may face incarceration, have significant fines imposed, and other penalties. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience in effectively defending clients in these matters. Contact the office today for an initial consultation at (215) 535-5353.