More Buried Treasure

Yesterday, I found more buried treasure here in Lancaster. It was in a nondescript room in a nondescript building on the south side of the city. Not the sort of place anyone would go looking for treasure. But there it was . . . in the form of about 50 people from secular and faith-based social service organizations, and city, county and state government agencies, talking together about ways to help people being released from Lancaster County Prison (LCP) to get the support, education and services they need to avoid returning to crime and to live as productive, law-abiding citizens. This was one of the regular bi-monthly meetings of the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO). Over 50 RMO partners have been working together to coordinate services that address critical needs for housing, employment, drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services, education, transportation, family and parenting supports, and other needs for people being released from LCP.

As the people around the table yesterday talked about the challenges of meeting so many needs for people much of the rest of the community has forgotten, I realized that here, HERE is some of Lancaster’s real buried treasure. In people whose names and organizations may be little known out in the broader community. People who do incredibly challenging, sometimes heartbreaking work that few others are willing to take on. People who do mundane, sleeves-rolled-up work too – driving clients to appointments, helping them get appropriate clothes for job interviews, ensuring they can obtain their medications, helping them fill out forms, teaching them the basics of having a bank account . . . the list goes on and on and on. People and organizations with stripped-down and ever-shrinking budgets, but great big hearts.

Beth Shalom

BIRD Ministries

Neighborhood Services

Spanish American Civic Association

The Gathering Place

Transitional Living Center

Transition to Community

Urban League

And these I’ve listed are just the organizations providing case management for RMO clients. There are many, many other organizations and agencies who are part of this RMO partnership, who have a heart and a passion for serving our community and ultimately, making it a safer place for all of us by doing all they can to reduce recidivism.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll share more about the work of this terrific and important collaborative effort.

And I hope to have more to share soon about another bit of added treasure in that room yesterday – a group of visitors from Philadelphia Leadership Foundation came to talk with the RMO group about engaging the faith community across Lancaster County in this reentry work, through the very successful national model called “Healing Communities,” based on the work and research of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. They describe Healing Communities this way:

“The term “prisoner reentry” reflects the simple fact that most inmates do return to society. Healing Communities go further. They press for reintegration in their desire to see relationships restored between men and women returning from incarceration, and their families, communities, the larger society and, where possible, the victims of their criminal behavior . . . {the} Healing Communities model . . . seeks to engage congregations in restoration and healing – starting with people in their own congregations affected by crime and incarceration.” (from the Annie E Casey Foundation publication Balancing Justice with Mercy: An Interfaith Guide for Creating Healing Communities)

After the RMO meeting officially ended, people lingered around the table and in the hallway, continuing the conversation about how to help some of our most forgotten citizens to return successfully to the community. Since I began volunteering with the RMO after my cross-country tour last year, I’ve been continually awed and humbled by the people involved with this organization and the work they do.

Buried treasure. In hearts of gold.

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: city life lancaster pa restorative justice criminal justice healing communities

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