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Pennsylvania Anti-Recidivism Program Gets Stopgap Funding From State

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Pennsylvania Prison Society announced today that it is receiving a grant from the state to reactivate its "Philly Renew" program, which has helped more than 400 ex-offenders reënter society.

Prison Society executive director William DiMascio says the program had been highly successful over the past four years helping ex-offender fathers get training, jobs, and access to social services that helped them take care of their families.

He says the society was shocked when legislators cut the program's funding last summer.

"It seemed a little bit of pennywise and pound foolish to cut a program that helped so many people get on with their lives," DiMascio said today.

The society appealed to legislators including state senator Anthony Williams, who got the state to give a $50,000 grant to keep the program going.

"If state government does not pay on the front side, it will continue to pay $30,000 per person, per year, on the back side," Williams said today.

Williams says Philadelphia is home to 30 percent of the Commonwealth's ex-offenders, many of them fathers.   He says assisting ex-offenders with their reëntry into society helps to decrease recidivism, restore family structure, and decrease violence.

"I was fed up with doing the same thing over and over again and decided it was time to switch over to the positive," said Isean McNeil (below), an ex-offender who went through the Philly Renew program after spending 14 years behind bars.  Now, he gives back.

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(Isean McNeil described how he turned his life around and now helps juveniles get themselves out of the criminal justice system. Credit: Cherri Gregg)


"Through Prison Society I was able to get involved with a program called Public Safety Initiative, where we go to the courts every other Monday, where we try to link up with some of these kids (juvenile offenders), serving as mentors," says McNeil, who also works with Shalom Inc.  "We've become very successful."

The Prison Society is hoping that lawmakers will restore regular state funding to the Philly Renew program as part of next year's budget.

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