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Identity & Community

System Introduced to Re-Integrate Offenders into Society

Each year, more than 20,000 offenders are released from state prisons. As they reintegrate into communities, it is crucial they are provided with the necessary resources for success.

Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced the delivery of an interactive reentry resource map that includes useful information for offenders reentering society.

Susan McNaughton the Press Secretary for the Department of Corrections says it is their goal to make it easy for these offenders to be effective members of society.

“People are going to websites to obtain information, so rather than having to go twenty different websites, these former offenders can go to the department of corrections site, and simply click on the interactive map,” said McNaughton.

Several years ago the Department of Corrections developed reentry resource directories for each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, essentially these were like phone books for offenders. The directories included information on housing and transportation, employment, alcohol and other drug treatment, medical assistance, food assistance, mental health services, parenting and education services. The problem, said McNaughton was all of these directories were in paper form.

During the summer of 2013, the reentry resource directories were updated and expanded to include additional services such as domestic violence, legal assistance, and military veteran services. In addition to updating it was time to expand to other formats.

So with a new Secretary of Corrections, John Wetzel and the department’s planning research and statistics team McNaughton said the organization decided they needed to keep up with technology.

“More inmates now a days are tech savvy, and while they don’t have internet access inside the institution they’ve had it before they come to us, and if they don’t while they are in the transitional housing we can help them at least gain a knowledge of how the internet works so that when they are released they can go ahead and be successful in using this tool,” said McNaughton.

The virtual map allows offenders to access their particular county, from any location. The resource maps can be accessed from smartphones, desktops, or any device with an internet connection. However McNaughton insists the success of the map is a group effort, and a shared benefit for everyone.

“It’s going to be an ongoing map we are constantly going to be updating it with information so we need the counties also, that if they see something is missing or they have a new program that they want to add to go out and reach out to the department, and we will go ahead and update our directory,” said McNaughton.

The Department of Corrections ultimate hope is to provide a vehicle to make information about community services more accessible, in order to assist individuals returning to society. McNaughton said the department is moving toward more innovative ways to reach this particular population.

“We are always looking at ways we can protect the public, but also help our offenders because if they reintegrate successfully they are less likely to commit new crimes,” said McNaughton.