Allegheny County Justice Related State Support (Max Out) Program
Justice Related Services Manual for Replication
The Allegheny County Justice-Related State Support Services (JRSS) is specifically for persons with mental illness or co-occurring disorders who have completed their maximum state prison sentences. This manual was created to inform and assist other communities that may be interested in replicating similar re-entry efforts.
The nationally recognized Allegheny County Justice Related State Support (Max Out) Program (formerly known as Allegheny County State Forensic Support Services) works to meet the needs of individuals with mental illness referred from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at the expiration of their maximum prison sentence. The Justice Related State Support Program helps these individuals reintegrate into their communities as productive, valuable members of society. It helps to provide, or make accessible, necessary mental health, medical and social services upon re-entry into society. The fact that there are no comparable programs in existence in the state of Pennsylvania highlights the unique nature of the Justice Related State Support Program. A focus on case management, advocacy and financial support provides the foundation for this comprehensive approach, which allows the specific concerns and needs of each individual to be addressed.
As individuals with a mental illness having ties to Allegheny County near the end of their prison sentences, they may be referred to the Justice Related State Support Program by a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Psychologist. After the referral, a private, confidential interview is held at the prison between the program staff member and the individual. Upon completion of the interview, the individual chooses if they will participate in this voluntary program. The interview serves two purposes. First, it allows program staff to do a general assessment of the individual's interests and needs. The interview also begins to build the relationship between the individual and the staff member, who will advocate for his/her interests in the community.
In preparation for release from prison, program staff arranges for housing, if necessary, and schedules a psychiatric appointment. When the individual is released, a worker meets him/her at the bus terminal, or, if he/she is released from a nearby institution or is incapable of managing a bus ride, program staff will pick up the individual from prison.
Upon release, the individual's rent can be covered for up to three months, bus passes are provided for transportation, the individual is taken shopping to choose new clothes on a limited but sufficient budget, and the staff member escorts the individual through the process of applying for any benefits for which he/she may be eligible. The program links the individual to job search tools and educational opportunities. The program works with the individual as long as necessary following release; the average span of intensive contact is 90 days.
Since its inception in July of 1999, the Allegheny County Justice Related State Support Program has served individuals from all 28 of Pennsylvania's state penitentiaries as well as several step-down community corrections centers. These individuals are at a high risk of re-arrest with histories of mental illness and often substance misuse coupled with a criminal record. However, despite these obstacles, program participants have demonstrated continued success in their recovery, recidivating at a rate one-fifth of that of all individuals released from a state penitentiary. The success of the State Justice Related Support Program lies in its ability to build trusting relationships through the collaborative effort of meeting each individual's distinct needs and easing anxiety associated with the re-entry process.
The Allegheny County Justice Related State Support Program has built an exceptional record in supporting the successful re-integration of individuals into the community upon release from prison, helping to resolve the ongoing issue of "the revolving door" in today's correctional system.
- Recommended by the Pennsylvania State Senate and Budget Finance Committee as a Model Program in the state as an effective way to save money
- Winner of the 2005 Innovations in American Government Award presented by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and administered by the Council for Excellence in Government. One of six award winners nationally, the program received a $100,000 grant to support replication of the program efforts.
- Commended in an article devoted to Allegheny County's Justice Related State Support Program in the New York Times, "Nowhere has the effort to improve the re-entry process been more successful, and had more bipartisan support, than here in Pittsburgh, in Allegheny County."
- A program participant who has benefited from this program is quoted in the same New York Times article saying, "Without the program, I would have ended up back in prison, or on drugs, or dead."
- Recognized by the Medical and Clinical Director for Behavioral Health Services of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections as the Model Program in the state for helping individuals with mental illness re-enter and stay in the community.
Department of Human Services
Office Of Behavioral Health
Human Services Integration Fund and Other Foundation-Funded Projects