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The 41-year-old from Lancaster served time after a 1997 conviction on assault and rape charges, but he thought that his violent past could be behind him — if only he could find a way to jump-start his reinvention. After he was released in January, he recalled, he was sitting in the waiting room at Lancaster’s Probation and Parole Office. ’ And I pulled the brochure out, and lo and behold, it talked about a support group for those who are returning citizens,” said Rivera, using a phrase for former inmates that is popular with advocacy groups.Pushing aside his discomfort, he attended the support group meeting in the quiet basement of a Lancaster church.Melanie Snyder, who leads the re-entry coalition in Lancaster, said these kinds of conversations, led by former inmates, help Rivera and others feel more connected with the community.“There are so few places where people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system can feel like their voices matter,” Snyder said.Welcome Friend Association provides seminars, training and outreach for other organizations and the community at large to broaden the understanding of the Queer community.
In order to keep reaching our goals we rely on the support and donations from our supporters.More than four out of 10 inmates who are released from state custody end up reoffending or re-entering jail within a year of their release, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ latest statistics.The Lancaster model, called an intensive care-management program, has a recidivism rate of just 15 percent among former inmates who participate — although they number only about 1 percent of those released each year from the county prison.Welcome Friend Association provides seminars and training for organizations and the community at large to broaden the understanding of the Queer community.We have come together to work towards a society where everyone, regardless of their gender of sexual orientation, can find respect and understanding.
“So coming into that space every week, where they know they will be accepted and welcomed and respected and loved, is like this manna from heaven.” Life training for former inmates These twice-weekly sessions are just a sliver of the services encompassed in an intensive program for ex-convicts in Lancaster that is stirring statewide conversation, and prompting criminal-justice advocates and county officials across the state to note the program’s impressive results.