Jail Collaborative’s Efforts to Reduce Recidivism Backed by Bipartisan Group of Local, National Leaders

PITTSBURGH – During this morning’s meeting of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative’s Civic Advisory Committee, a bipartisan group of local and national leaders spoke of their support of new strategies to reduce jail population, improve public safety and save taxpayer dollars.

“The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative is a unique and cooperative effort to reduce recidivism and give inmates the tools they need to succeed after incarceration,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “We are fortunate to have a broad, bipartisan group of people from all walks of life working to improve public safety by building a better system of reentry for people coming out of the Allegheny County Jail.”

The Civic Advisory Committee provides guidance and support to the Jail Collaborative and includes academicians, judges, elected officials and foundation, business, community and religious leaders.

“The Jail Collaborative is poised to lead the nation in demonstrating that a county can both improve safety and save money when it prepares inmates to re-enter society with job skills, life skills, and sobriety,” said former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who serves as a member of the Civic Advisory Committee.

Also participating in today’s meeting and expressing their support for the Jail Collaborative were former Allegheny County District Attorney and current Pennsylvania Superior Court Senior Judge Robert Colville, as well as former U.S. Attorney and current UPMC General Counsel Robert Cindrich.

“It’s not only rehabilitating inmates that matters,” said Colville. “It’s also important that we divert non-violent people to drug and alcohol treatment and mental health treatment instead of jail. When we address the root cause of criminal behaviors, we find great success, as seen in our Drug Court and Mental Health Court.”

“We aren’t talking about trading safety for savings,” added Cindrich. “We are talking about a better way of having public safety. When people are released from jail, we want them to become taxpayers and contributing members of their communities, not to rotate back into jail.”

Frederick Thieman, also a former U.S. Attorney and current President of the Buhl Foundation, serves as chair of the Civic Advisory Committee and moderated today’s meeting.

“The Jail Collaborative’s programs are stopping the turnstile – reducing recidivism by half,” said Thieman. “And the Drug Court and Mental Health Court have been shown to save money without compromising public safety.”

“I’ve seen a significant shift, over the years, in how the public sees the issue of incarceration,” said Urban League President & CEO Esther Bush, who is also a member of the Civic Advisory Committee. “People have come to see that we have to expect our jails and prisons to work on rehabilitation and reintegration. That means giving men and women the tools to change, like treatment, education, help in finding housing and jobs. If all we set out to do is punish and not to correct, all we’ll see is the same, bad result.”

Other Civic Advisory Committee members attending today’s meeting were Larry Davis, Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, Susan Everingham, Director of the Pittsburgh Office of RAND, and Alfred Blumstein, a nationally noted and highly regarded criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

“Incarcerating violent criminals is certainly a useful and effective strategy,” said Blumstein. “However, as the strategy is broadened to put a major emphasis on drug offenses, which now account for 20 percent of state prisoners, and many other non-violent offenses, it becomes more expensive and the effectiveness much more questionable.”

The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative was formed in 2000 and has grown in recognition and programming. It aims to improve public safety, restrain the growth in jail costs, and prevent the disintegration of communities and families impacted by crime and incarceration. With funds from local and national foundations, federal and state grants, and collaboration across the county, it has developed ground breaking alternatives to incarceration.

The Collaborative has doubled the number of programs inside the jail, such as employment and training programs operated by the Urban League, Goodwill and Springboard Kitchens, family support programs operated by Family Services of Western Pa., Lydia’s Place and Amachi, and programs operated by POWER and Mercy Behavioral Health. It has also worked to better coordinate release from the jail and re-entry into the community, as well as to support programs in neighborhoods that support the successful reintegration of ex-offenders.

The Jail Collaborative is composed of the leaders of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County Jail, Allegheny County Department of Health and Allegheny County Department of Human Services, as well as community organizations and the Civic Advisory Committee.

For additional information about the Jail Collaborative, visit www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/jail.aspx.

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Members of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative’s Civic Advisory Committee

  • The Hon. Cynthia Baldwin. Vice President & General Counsel, Pennsylvania State University
  • Alfred Blumstein, Professor, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Esther Bush, President & CEO, Urban League of Pittsburgh
  • Claire Capristo, Chief Deputy Court Administrator, Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania
  • Doris Carson Williams, President & CEO, African American Chamber of Commerce
  • The Hon. Robert J. Cindrich, Senior Advisor, Office of the President, UPMC
  • The Hon. Robert E. Colville, Senior Judge, Pennsylvania Superior Court
  • Michele Rone Cooper, Executive Director, McAuley Ministries
  • The Hon. Jay Costa, State Senator, Pennsylvania Senate
  • Larry E. Davis, Dean, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work
  • Susan Everingham, Director, RAND Pittsburgh Office
  • Jeff Finkelstein, President & CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
  • Rev. Dr. Donald B. Green, Executive Director, Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania
  • Melanie Harrington, President, Vibrant Pittsburgh
  • Magdeline E. Jensen, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Greater Pittsburgh
  • Dr. Alex Johnson, President, Community College of Allegheny County
  • The Hon. Maureen Lally-Green, Director, Diocese of Pittsburgh, Office for Church Relations
  • The Hon. Frank Lucchino, Senior Judge, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
  • David J. Malone, President & CEO, Gateway Financial
  • Barbara McNees President, Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce
  • Edward P. Mulvey Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • Daniel S. Nagin, Professor, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Robert Nelkin, President & Chief Professional Officer, United Way of Allegheny County
  • James C. Roddey, Senior Consultant, McCrory and McDowell
  • Joni Schwager, Executive, Director Staunton Farm Foundation
  • Jack Shea, President, Allegheny County Labor Council
  • Frederick W. Thieman, President, Buhl Foundation
  • The Hon. Richard Thornburgh, Of Counsel, K&L Gates, LLP
  • The Hon. Mike Turzai, State Representative, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
  • The Hon. Chelsa Wagner, Allegheny County Controller
  • Claire Walker, Executive Director, Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation

The Hon. Jake Wheatley, State Representative, Pennsylvania House of Representatives