An Approach to Restorative Justice: Pennsylvania Prison Society

An Approach to Restorative Justice: Pennsylvania Prison Society

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

A common opinion in American society is that prisoners don’t deserve help. They are the ones that put themselves in prison, to begin with.

Most citizens are not aware that when prisoners are released into society it is our responsibility to care. The outside population is affected by offenders that are released from prison without essential life skills. Community members and taxpayers are impacted by prisoners that are unable to survive in the outside world because the only way these individuals know how to earn a living is to commit crimes.

The Pennsylvania Prison Society (PPS) has been educating former offenders to become productive citizens and advocating for safe communities since 1787. The organization continues to add new programs that make it possible for former offenders to successfully reintegrate back into society.

Most inmates are accustomed to a family environment filled with stress and trauma. Enduring prison life is no different.

PPS reduces the recidivism tipping point by offering new workshops for former inmates that promote coping skills and innovative approaches to living a fulfilling life in the real world.

A free three-day women’s workshop in the greater Philadelphia area is being offered for women with a criminal background. The workshop is designed to equip women with confidence and the skills needed to obtain and maintain employment. A computer literacy course used for job searching is included along with free transportation. Women participants in the workshop will have the opportunity to network and set occupational goals.

A four-week job-hunting strategy and employment maintenance workshop is an addition to a new reentry program for Philadelphia fathers. Former inmates are provided with basic job-search tools needed to locate and land employment. The workshop is designed to teach Philadelphia area former offenders over the age of eighteen the fundamental skills of resume writing and interviewing.

Most parents who have been incarcerated do not know how to be parents because their parents could not role-model effective parenting. Neglectful parenting is a generational social problem because it perpetuates a new generation of incarceration.

More than 3,000 incarcerated parents have graduated from the 12-week parenting program offered inside prison. The program is offered by PPS. PPS’s goal is to reunify families and help parents with children in welfare care to regain parenting rights by learning new parenting skills. Parenting classes have expanded to correctional facilities throughout the state.

PPS acknowledges the sense of loss – emotional, physical, mental, behavioral, and financial – children experience when their parents are incarcerated. Support for Kids with Incarcerated Parents (SKIP) is a 12-week support program for children ages 8-12 offered in selected Philadelphia schools. The goal of the program is to build self-esteem and help children cope with their parent’s incarceration.

The Working Group to Enhance Services for Incarcerated Women empowers incarcerated women by educating them about their rights and available services. The program’s goal is to support women returning to the Philadelphia area, assisting in a successful reentry transition.

The family transportation program provides affordable bus service to most of Pennsylvania’s correctional facilities. The service helps families visit incarcerated family members in most areas of the state.

Visitation is important because inmates that have regular visits from family members are less likely to re-offend. The Family Resource Center encourages constructive visits between family members. Positive communication skills are directed toward visits with children as a component of the parenting program.

The Pennsylvania Prison Society recognizes the value of using a restorative approach to criminal justice issues. The restorative approach benefits and enriches all facets of society and advances the well-being of the entire community.