PITTSBURGH – The Allegheny County Department of Human Services and the Allegheny County Jail today released a new publication about the Allegheny County Jail’s new Discharge Center, a key component of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative’s plan to reduce the recidivism within the county.
The narrative report, “I Hope I See You Somewhere Else: Allegheny County Jail’s Discharge Center Helps Ex-Offenders Leave on the Right Foot,” provides an historical overview, as well as a first-hand look, at the workings of the Discharge Center. Designed to smooth inmates’ transition back into the community at the end of their jail stay, the Center completed its first year of operation in 2012. The report identifies lessons learned during the first year of operation that will inform future program improvements and modifications.
“We are really proud of the process that has been put together to handle discharges for the Allegheny County Jail, as well as the support services that are in place for the inmate when that occurs,” said Deputy Warden LaToya Warren. “With additional support and information provided to our inmates, we hope to see lower rates of recidivism because they are being provided with the tools they need for re-entry.”
The idea for the Discharge Center had existed for a long time; in fact, the original design of the current Allegheny County Jail, which opened in 1995, included a Discharge Center, but the space was instead appropriated for other purposes. Corrections officers, former inmates and family members saw the problems that came from the decision and shared their concerns with the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative during the community meetings it convened in 2010 in preparation for the development of a strategic plan. With the leadership of the Collaborative, that idea and planning resulted in the opening of the Discharge Center in 2011.
The Discharge Center and its practice of providing 48 hours to plan for a discharge has been an effective tool, “The people getting out need help, and those needs can vary greatly,” said Marc Cherna, Director of the Department of Human Services. “Providing 48 hours to assist inmates in their discharge allows an opportunity to determine if they need help with clothing, transportation, shelter or any other service. We can get them started in the right direction so they don’t come back in the door.”
The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative was formed in 2000 to increase public safety by reducing recidivism. The Collaborative’s leadership includes representatives from the Department of Human Services, the Allegheny County Jail, the Allegheny County Health Department and the Court of Common Pleas, as well as the Chief of Staff for the County Executive.
“The work of the Jail Collaborative is absolutely instrumental in making recommendation and changes that improve our Corrections system,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “The efforts in helping establish the Discharge Center have made all the difference because of the buy-in, collaboration and cooperation of all offices involved in corrections.”
Information about the Collaborative is available on the Allegheny County Department of Human Services web site, at http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/jail.aspx.
The report was produced by the DHS Office of Data Analysis, Research and Evaluation, and is available on the Allegheny County Department of Human Services website, at http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/research-crime-justice.aspx.
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