Increasing public safety, decreasing the cost to tax payers and the need to keep and attract employers has created a new sense of urgency in dealing with the issues of prisoner reentry in Philadelphia. For too long, the challenges facing returning citizens were largely ignored.
The dimensions of the challenges are clear. This year alone, more than 30,000 people will return to Philadelphia from Federal, State and County detention. Most will return to the same neighborhoods often jobless, unemployable, without stable housing and lacking the basic skills they need. Few, either lack an understanding or haven’t made the commitments to turn their lives around now. The Mayor’s Office of Reintegrated Services (R.I.S.E.) has developed pragmatic practices addressing the negative pull of gravity our clients face every day.
Our work is done with the understanding that some have been convicted, sentenced and incarcerated for committing serious crimes. Their problems often are not high on most lists of priorities. And there are many citizens who believe that these former criminals do not deserve our attention or concern.
We don’t subscribe to that thinking. R.I.S.E.’s operating philosophy is that second chances are earned not given.
If we expect Philadelphia to remain a 1st class city that is a safe place to live and raise our children; we must continue to renew our commitment to successfully reintegrate the formerly incarcerated home.
Many have been punished, accepting responsibility of poor judgments and unacceptable past behaviors and are now looking forward to contributing to their families, neighborhoods as law-abiding, hard working taxpaying citizens. I believe they are entitled to be treated fairly in issues of employment, education, health care, housing and all other areas of daily life. We cannot hesitate to ensure that they, like all Philadelphians have the necessary tools to succeed.
The fact is that when people with criminal convictions succeed, we all succeed. Our families, our neighborhoods and Philadelphia’s economy all benefit when formerly incarcerated individuals achieve their independence by leading healthy, responsible, crime free lives. With more than 200,000 Philadelphian’s facing the collateral consequences of their convictions, we must all do a better job at recognizing this special challenge.
The Mayor’s Office of Reintegrated Services (R.I.S.E.) is a critical first step in that process.