Offender reentry was a focus of the Centre County Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB) for a number of years and in 2012, the CJAB created a Reentry Planning Subcommittee. The focus of that subcommittee was to make recommendations on offender reentry to the CJAB to be used in the development of an overall CJAB Strategic Plan.
In 2013, the Centre County CJAB conducted a survey of its members as part of the ongoing CJAB Strategic Planning Initiative. The goal of the survey was to identify priorities the CJAB wanted to address during the next three years and determine if any of the priorities previously identified had changed. The 2013 offender reentry, and more specifically the development of a plan to enhance the successful return of offenders to the community, was identified as a top priority of the CJAB.
Through an examination of the Centre County inmate population in 2014, it showed that there were a total of 1,829 commitments to the Centre County Correctional Facility (CCCF). Of these, 1,143 commitments were Centre County inmates with 908 being male (79%) and 235 being female (21%). The remaining 686 commitments were inmates from other counties and/or the PA DOC. In 2014 a total of 795 sentenced Centre County inmates were paroled and another 66 Centre County inmates were released after serving their maximum sentence. As can be seen from this one year alone, there are a lot of citizens returning to the community from jail.
After consistently identifying offender reentry as a priority, in late 2012 the CJAB Offender Reentry Planning Subcommittee, in collaboration with county correctional facility personnel, developed a proposal for an Offender Reentry Planning grant application. This application was endorsed by the CJAB and submitted to PCCD on behalf of the Board of Commissioners in early 2013. The county was subsequently awarded grant funding for this project to help develop a comprehensive and collaborative strategic reentry plan and to retain a qualified consultant to assist the county in this process and in creating a reentry coalition.
Due to a number of changes at the CCCF the county was given an extension of its grant end date to December 31, 2014. In June of 2014, with the aid of its PCCD grant funding, the county retained Melanie Snyder, Executive Director of the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization, to facilitate a series of six reentry planning meetings and assist the county in developing a comprehensive offender reentry plan and creating an ongoing reentry coalition. Given the magnitude and wide-ranging needs of the reentry population, the county recognized that it would be essential to coordinate and concentrate community efforts. The Offender Reentry Planning Subcommittee worked with Ms. Snyder to identify community and social service representatives to be invited to take part in the reentry planning process.
On June 13, 2014, a Reentry Kickoff Meeting facilitated by Ms. Snyder was held in the community room of the county correctional facility. This meeting was attended by 39 individuals including 14 members of our CJAB, 6 individuals from the CCCF and Adult Probation, and 19 individuals from the community and other disciplines including state parole, housing, the faith community, education and technical training, employment, the treatment field, transportation, and victim services. Subsequent monthly meetings were facilitated by Ms. Snyder from July through to November 2014, by which time our Reentry Coalition was firmly established. Commissioner Michael Pipe assumed the role of the Chair of the Reentry Coalition at the December 12, 2014 meeting. The coalition continues to meet on a regular basis to facilitate offender reentry and serves as a committee of the Centre County CJAB.