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Politics & Government

County Jail Gets $1.2 Million to Reduce Return Customers

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As Allegheny County moves into its third year of a three-year program aimed at reducing recidivism rates, it has learned that it will have more money than it expected to support the effort.  The U.S. Department of Justice Second Chance Act Demonstration Program has increased its grant for the Allegheny County Reentry Initiative to $1.2 million, an increase of $370,000 over last year. 

“We also received additional dollars from year one to year two, which are to help Allegheny County and our project participate in the national study that the Bureau of Justice Assistance that the Department of Justice is conducting of the Second Chance Act projects,” said Sue Martone, Assistant Deputy Director of the Office of Behavioral Health at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.

The initiative began in Allegheny County in 2010 and will be fully evaluated in 2014, but Martone said progress is already being seen.  “Their reentry center has been created, a discharge center has been created, additional space has been made available for reentry participants.”

The Jail Collaborative is a cooperative effort of the County Jail, Department of Human Services, Health Department and Court of Common Pleas. It was formed in 1999 with the purpose of improving public safety, reducing recidivism, and increasing success for inmates following incarceration. At the time more than 70-percent of the inmates released from the Allegheny County Jail wound up committing another crime and being sent back in. 

Inmates that enter the program begin to take into classes to prepare them for the transition back into the community six months before they are released. Reentry initiative participants have a designated team consisting of a reentry specialist (service coordinator), family support specialist and reentry probation office liaison.

Some of the changes are as simple as modifying the time of day that an inmate is released so they can be picked up by a family member rather than being sent out on their own, giving the former inmate a new set of clothes and allowing them to call loved ones prior to being released.