Lancaster County Prison is expanding the support it provides to inmates as they transition back to life in the community.
On Wednesday, the Lancaster County commissioners approved an amendment to a contract between the prison and Lancaster-based nonprofit Nabors Coaching Group to add funding for a pilot program called “New Beginnings-Plus.”
It will build on “New Beginnings,” an intensive two-week class that Nabors offers to inmates prior to release. The class is designed to help them develop a strategy for their post-release lives and the life skills to pursue it successfully.
New Beginnings-Plus will provide the next step: Ongoing help for New Beginnings graduates.
Two case managers will provide mentorship, advice and connections to social services. The goals are to foster success for former inmates, reduce recidivism and increase public safety, Deputy Warden Joe Shiffer said.
New Beginnings-Plus initially will run from Oct. 1 to the end of September 2024. At that point it will be evaluated for effectiveness, to see if recidivism actually declined. The prison is projecting about 200 people will take part in the pilot, Reentry Program Manager Christina Fluegel said.
The program is budgeted at $248,000. Existing funding for the New Beginnings classes is $581,130, so the contract with Nabors Coaching Group now totals $829,130.
The cost is covered by proceeds from the County Prison’s commission on commissary sales.
All three commissioners expressed support for the pilot at Tuesday’s work session, saying it’s well worth trying new ways to reduce reoffending and that they’re eager to see what the data will show.
Reducing recidivism is a challenge for correctional systems nationwide, with rates often hovering around two-thirds. In the case of New Beginnings, 249 inmates have participated to date. Of those, 54 have reached the three-year post-release mark; their recidivism rate is 64.8%, according to the prison’s August reentry report. That’s about the same as the three-year rate for reentrants from Pennsylvania’s state prison system.
Earlier this month, the commissioners approved a contract with Donegal Substance Abuse Alliance to provide post-release case management for individuals in the prison’s Medication Assisted Treatment Program for substance abuse disorder.
That program and New Beginnings-Plus will complement each other, Shiffer and Fluegel said, and eligible individuals would be able to participate in both, if they chose.