New program helps those leaving the criminal justice system

An innovative program designed to assist in the rehabilitation and reintegration of those leaving the criminal justice system who are deemed to be at moderate or high risk of recidivism has been launched to serve the Scranton District Parole Office.

STRIVE, which stands for State Transition Reentry Incentive Validating Endeavors, is a program modeled after the federal Court Assisted Re-Entry (CARE) program.

The CARE program, originally developed in 2015 and made possible through the coordinated efforts of attorney Albert R. Murray, Jr. and retired judge Thomas Vanaskie, serves as the foundation for this new program that leverages public and private resources in its operation. The two men will serve as STRIVE team liaisons. The program will provide returnees with coordinated support in three main areas: education, behavioral health and financial literacy. The three organizations that will work together to make the program a success are: Northampton Community College (education), Pyramid Healthcare, Inc. (behavioral health) and ESSA Bank & Trust (financial literacy).

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Kelly Evans, Assistant Secretary for Reintegration at the Palestinian Authority’s Department of Corrections, said: “The period following incarceration can be daunting for reentrants, especially if they lack support. Returnees are our friends, neighbors and colleagues. By helping set them on the path to success, STRIVE partners not only reduce the risk of reoffending, but also strengthen local communities. Initially, the program will launch in Lackawanna County.

As part of the STRIVE program, Northampton Community College (NCC) will support reintegrates with job training, employment counselling, job training, financial assistance where possible and referral to other community colleges throughout the service area, where applicable. Programs such as English as a Second Language (ESL), Adult Basic Education (ABE), and General Education Development (GED) will be offered.

Pyramid Healthcare, Inc. will perform a level of care assessment for STRIVE participants and provide a continuum of behavioral healthcare services and coordination of other behavioral healthcare sponsors.

ESSA Bank & Trust will provide financial education and advisory services to qualified participants, as well as a STRIVE loan program. Qualified participants are eligible for loans of up to $15,000 to be used exclusively for housing, education/training or transportation.

Participation in the STRIVE program will provide returnees with opportunities to become involved with several local community service agencies that will help them successfully reintegrate into the community. The program is voluntary and available to all Scranton District Office re-entrants who are at medium to high risk of reoffending and who still have at least 24 months to serve. Sex offenders and serious mental health cases are not eligible for the program. Participants must also have the recommendation of their registration officer (Parole Officer)

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The program will have a team of people to work with and support participants, including case officer, supervising case officer, district director, community reintegration parole officer, the parole manager, treatment teams, mentors and additional community resources deemed necessary. Participants may also be called upon to work with family and other community resources.

The program has a duration of three years, which will allow time to evaluate its effectiveness and results. All the organizations involved recognize it as a humanitarian project without political or financial motivation. In short, it’s a program that should help make the community better.

– Debbie Kulick writes a weekly column for the Pocono Record and is on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic as an EMT.