Taking the Lead - Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization

Today’s post focuses on Lancaster – and an aspect of our community that’s often invisible: the challenges people face when transitioning back to the Lancaster community after incarceration. This is Harold’s story . . .

When Harold* was due to be released from the Lancaster County Prison last November, he had nowhere to go, and was afraid he’d end up homeless. But an officer from the Pre-Parole Unit at the prison told Harold about the Lancaster County Re-entry Management Organization (RMO), which could help Harold to find transitional housing, and other support he might need to successfully re-enter the community. They gave Harold information about the RMO partner organizations and Harold contacted Steve Morris at Transition to Community (TTC).

Morris went to the prison to visit Harold before his release. “I interviewed Harold, to figure out what he would need and assess how he might do with our program,” Morris explains. “I could see that he was willing to work hard at making changes in his life, so I recommended to prison staff that he be allowed to be an RMO client.”

When Harold was released, Morris met him at the door, took him to TTC and then helped Harold get settled into one of their transitional houses. Based on the needs identified in their initial interview at the prison, Morris worked with the Lancaster County Council of Churches to get some clothing for Harold, got Harold to the MH/MR office for treatment for a diagnosed mental illness, figured out how to get him the life-sustaining medications he needs, set up appointments with Mission New Life for drug and alcohol counseling, and took him to CareerLink to start working on his GED and start searching for employment.

This type of coordinated case management is a key aspect of the RMO partnership. Scott Sheely, who serves as chairman of the RMO, explains, “Having an RMO case manager who is aware of all of the needs a person might have, and leveraging the strong working relationships and resources of all of the RMO partner agencies gives us the ability to really help people to succeed and avoid returning to crime. Ultimately, that makes our communities safer.”

For Harold, being involved in the RMO re-entry program has been life-changing. “I never had a support group,” he says. “My family wasn’t there for me. I was on my own. But I met Steve and he changed that. Everybody is helping me out and making me know I don’t want to go back to the way I used to be.”

Bob Geiger, drug and alcohol counselor at Mission New Life observes, “Harold has worked really hard at his recovery and internalized what he needed to do. He understands that he has some needs he’ll have to work on long-term. But he’s shown a lot of perseverance with all of the barriers that were thrown in his way, and he’s always had a good attitude.”

Mary Fry, who has worked 1:1 with Harold at Mission New Life, says, “Harold has been so stable. He’s had to adjust to huge disappointments. For example, he really had his heart set on getting his CDL license and being a truck driver. But he found out that because of his felony record, he can’t do that. But he never said, ‘Poor me.’ He adjusted and decided to pursue becoming a chef instead. He’s working on his GED and planning to go to YTI.”

Harold explains, “When I was young, my uncle was a cook in a restaurant and I’d go in and help do the dishes. I learned some things about cooking and I’m pretty good at it. So, now I’m the main cook at the TTC house. But I make sure the other guys do the clean-up!” he adds with a laugh.

In addition to pursuing his GED and cooking school, Harold is also saving money and working toward getting an apartment of his own and some furniture. “I would like to have a place where my sons could come and visit me,” he explains. “My children are with their mother,” he adds quietly. “She didn’t want me to see them because I kept going back to prison. But as long as I stay on my medication and work hard, I won’t go back to jail.”

Morris says that Harold has become a real leader in TTC’s transitional house, and he does volunteer work as well.

Harold brightens at the compliment. “I stepped up to be a leader, not a follower. I saw an example from someone else who was a type of leader that I DIDN’T want to be. So then I stepped up to the plate. I knew I could do a good job.”

Morris adds, “Harold is the eyes and ears at the house. It’s great to have him in the program.”

Harold shrugs. “The RMO let me start all over and be released back to the community. And now I’m trying to give something back.”

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For more information on the work of the Lancaster County Re-entry Management Organization, see the organization’s website

For a printable version of this RMO Success Story, CLICK HERE

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

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