Think about the worst thing you’ve ever done. Really. Pause there for a moment—and then you’ll see where I’m going with this.
The quote, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done” by Bryan Stevenson is a quote that our partners at the PA CareerLink® South Central Reentry Program operates under. We all deserve the opportunity to utilize our best skills and talents despite our worst mistake.
This program, launched in 2020, provides second chances to those with previous involvement in the criminal justice system across eight counties including Adams. Through collaboration with county agencies and community stakeholders, the program assists individuals at various points throughout their justice system involvement. This could be after arrest, while incarcerated, or after release.
Through mentorship and career advisement, staff take an individualized approach with each person and creates a plan for success. Each individual’s circumstances are different and a caring team meets everyone where they are. Individuals can take advantage of direct job placement, scholarships for certifications and training programs in high priority occupations, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities, internships, mentorship and many more free services.
The South Central team also recognizes the vital role that businesses play, through the power of second chance hiring. Sustainable living wage employment is a vital support for reducing recidivism rates, providing purpose and self-sufficiency to reentrants, as well as a quality, dedicated workforce for employers struggling to find employees.
To support employers in second chance hiring, SCPa Works has launched the South Central Reentry Employment Council to build a reentry ecosystem in South Central PA, comprised of employers, community partners, coalitions, and other invested stakeholders.
“Employers, we need you to make a difference in the lives of our community members—we welcome you to connect with the council and the team,” says Hillary Lyle, SCPa Works’ Program Manager for Youth and Reentry Programs. (Look for her contact info at the end of this column!)
Here in Adams County, there’s another group working to improve the lives of reentrants. Dr. Rev. Angel Perez is the Director of Christian Ministries for Adams County Prison Ministries (ACPM). His office, inside the Adams County Adult Correctional Complex, allows him to provide one-on-one pastoral care, and to act as a connection between the imprisoned and their pastors, clergy and volunteers.
There are about 200 community volunteers involved with ACPM—although many have been forced to curtail their volunteer outreach due to COVID-19. Still, Perez says his organization is gearing up to assist with reentry programs, especially by providing mentorship for a positive reintegration into our community.
“The endeavor of ACPM is to empower individuals with life skills that will help them— not only with their family and community—but to be successful employees. Using a faith-based curriculum, we will be providing courses that provide Biblical principles on cultivating healthy professional relationships. Topics will include areas like emotional intelligence, conflict resolution management, positive perspectives, and coping skills,” says Perez.
ACPM was recently placed on my radar screen thanks to a longtime friend of the Alliance, Norris Flowers, who recently retired from both our ACEDC Board of Directors and his position at Destination Gettysburg. As he was thinking about ways in which he could contribute to the community during his retirement, he decided to devote his time to ACPM—and here’s why:
“It’s not very often that you get a win-win-win-win situation,” says Flowers. “If we can help inmates get good paying jobs to support their families, it will help them from going back to prison, all while helping our businesses with qualified employees. There’s not an industry in Adams County not begging for workers. In addition, if you look at what it costs the county to keep someone imprisoned, the more people we can bring on to do this and be successful, it’ll ultimately be a cost savings for the county, taxpayers, and the community.”
Here’s where you come in. Do you believe in second chances? Employers and those interested in learning more about the South Central Reentry Program, please reach out to Hillary Lyle at [email protected] and see scpaworks.org. To volunteer and learn more about Adams County Prison Ministries, see adamscpm.org.
Robin Fitzpatrick is President of Adams Economic Alliance, which comprises three organizations: The Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), the Adams County Industrial Development Authority (ACIDA) and the Adams County General Authority (ACGA). For more information, see adamsalliance.org, or follow us on Twitter (@AdamsAlliance), Facebook (Facebook.com/AdamsAlliance) and LinkedIn (Adams Economic Alliance).