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baltimoresun.com

Helping former inmates re-enter society

12:30 PM EDT, October 12, 2013

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The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has shown leadership and courage in its commitment to supporting positive transitions for individuals re-entering the Baltimore City community from incarceration ("Closing prison's revolving door," Oct. 2).

Innovative efforts within the prison system and progressive partnerships with other government agencies, private entities and non-profits have contributed significantly to the reduction in recidivism since 2007. The individuals served by the Living Classrooms Foundation and the Patrick Allison House have benefited enormously from the coordination of re-entry services and the ongoing development of a continuum of care extending from within the prison walls to stable employment, housing and community membership.

Successful re-entry is based on access to employment readiness and skills training, stable housing, medical care and counseling services as well as mediation and conflict resolution, financial literacy, family support and reunification and mentoring.

Increasing numbers of inmates are able to benefit from a pipeline of services including "behind the fence" wrap-around services and training, coordinated enrollment with a network of non-profit service providers and a broad array of services to provide individuals with the skills, resources and opportunities to make a successful transition. The collaborative efforts of the community of service providers and DPSCS create opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals to become successful and productive members of the workforce, their families and the greater community.

Corrections Secretary Gary D. Maynard has been an effective partner and consistent promoter of Baltimore's re-entry service providers. Our experience has been that the majority of people leaving prison are highly motivated, enthusiastic and diligent in their efforts to become self-sufficient and get on with their lives. It benefits the entire community, socially and financially, to support those efforts.

Leveraging public and private resources to begin re-entry by identifying an inmate's treatment and educational needs, and by providing high-quality, "behind the fence" services and training that keeps inmates close to their homes for release, creates a strong continuity of services with community-based providers that is a proven model for success in Baltimore City and one that could be used effectively throughout the state. We look forward to the further reduction of recidivism in the future as we all work together to provide more individuals with opportunities to succeed.

Meg Ward Stephenson and James Piper Bond, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, executive director of the Patrick Allison House and president and CEO of the Living Classrooms Foundation.