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AG Shapiro Announces New Effort To Help Incarcerated People Transition Back To Civilian Life

Marc Levy
Inmates walk across the yard at the State Correctional Institute at Camp Hill on Friday, January 13, 2017.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is looking for ways to reduce the recidivism rate among formerly incarcerated individuals in the commonwealth.

“When you have two out of every three prisoners recidivate, meaning they commit crimes once they’re released from prison and end up back in prison, I think it tells you we need a much smarter approach when dealing with these returning citizens,” Shapiro said.

According to National Institute of Justice statistics, two-thirds of released prisoners are re-arrested within three years and three-quarters are re-arrested within five years

The Pennsylvania Reentry Council is a joint effort of the state, U.S. attorney’s offices in Pennsylvania, as well as organizations working to help formerly incarcerated people transition back to civilian life.

Shapiro said the biggest obstacles facing people who get out of prison are housing, employment, substance abuse and mental health disorders, access to education and difficulty obtaining important documents such as ID cards.

“Think about yourself," Shapiro said. "If you lost your wallet tomorrow, how many hours it would take you over the phone trying to find the right agencies to get all these identifying documents? And now think about it from the standpoint of a prisoner, having to basically start over as a reentering citizen, a returning citizen."

Shapiro said the council will be charged with reviewing best practices from agencies across the state and figuring out how to scale them up. He said there are a lot of individual groups and counties doing great work.

“But what we haven’t had in Pennsylvania is one entity bringing it all together,” Shapiro said. 

Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.