Reentry Central often writes about organizations that are committed to ending mass incarceration and helping people successfully transition back into the community. Most of these organizations have considerable funds, while others scrape by on limited budget.
One such organization that caught our eye is woefully underfunded, but hugely committed to helping women reintegrate back into the community. Based in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, FORE is a small organization which has the potential to make a big impact on the lives of incarcerated, and formerly incarcerated women, and their children.
Reentry Central reached out to Donna Gathright, President of Lebanon County Community Action Partnership and asked her to provide some information on FORE for our readers. We are happy to share the information below, and are encouraged to see that people are stepping up to help those returning home from jail in any way they can, despite having limited financial resources. It is small organizations like FORE that also deserve recognition and funding. Hopefully Pennsylvania state and county officials will give them both.
F.O.R.E. (Female Offenders Re-Entry Program)
FORE provides assistance to women wishing to transition from jail into halfway houses or treatment programs. FORE pays the initial entrance fee for the programs; once in the program they are able to take over financial responsibilities with the programs assistance. During 2014, we received 20 applications from the LCCF of which we funded 5 clients. The majority of applications were asking for rental assistance when released. This is not something we could do at this time however, it is something we would like to be able to fund in the future. FORE is looking at the possibility of funding two clients which would include paying 6 months’ rent for each client and working with them throughout the 6 month period to obtain employment and work on re-entry issues/goals.
FORE is paying a facilitator to provide a co-dependency class in the LCCF. This class runs 8 weeks every Thursday at 12:00 for one hour. After these 8 weeks, we run 3 more weeks offering classes run by SARCC and Lebanon Family Health volunteers. The class then repeats throughout the year. We have from 5 to 6 women participating in each session. We have a co-dependency group that is run at the probation office by a paid facilitator. This group was to be filled with women who would attend as part of their probation/sentence ordered by one of the judges. So far we have had 2 women sent to us and we ran our first group which included women from the welfare to work program. The second group will be run this fall. The women would be charged a $5.00 fee for attending each class which would help to pay for the classes and supplies.
Training for this group was provided by Marilyn Stine to the FORE Board as well as the facilitator.
FORE updated the HOW TO EXPLAIN PRISONS AND JAILS TO CHILDREN A CAREGIVERS GUIDE, we had 10 copies made, to try to get funding to make 300 copies. These copies would be free of charge and we would take as many as needed to anyone who wanted them. The book will also be included on our website. The internet does offer these types of resources, but it is still important to have books as some caregivers may not have internet access nor knowledge to be able to find resources. F.O.R.E. has applied for the Kiwanis grant to fund printing and we are currently waiting for outcome. F.O.R.E. is also looking at information to put together a booklet for the women in prison on how to keep in contact with your children. This booklet will cover important issues pertaining to their children’s wellbeing and how to stay connected in their lives. We hope to have this out next year.
FORE has started a service project for civic groups collecting needed items for the women in jail such as white undergarments, shampoo, stamps etc. We take them into the jail when we receive them to help the women when they have nothing. When items are in need and no group has signed up to collect goods, FORE will provide the prison with money to purchase these items.
FORE is currently working on a monthly newsletter to give to the women in the jail that includes highlights of different agencies and explains the process of receiving services from them. It would also cover PA state laws on hiring people with records and what your rights are and how to navigate through this area. We would also include social and coping skills such as how to get along with others etc.
FORE has contacted Dick Gaither from work wizards in Indiana and obtained his curriculum on getting a job with a criminal record. Dick has his curriculum in jails and prisons in his area and he does state trainings which I was lucky enough to attend. Susan Wright is currently over-viewing curriculum and we wish to get it up and running in the jail to women who are close to being released. We do not have all details hammered out as to when we can offer, but will be working on that very soon. Dick has graciously offered us any assistance he can give to get this started.
FORE’s wish list has for a long time included making a PowerPoint to take out to employers to get them to hire people with records. We would include statistics as well as explain bonding and tax credits and focus on showing them how easy the paperwork is to use these. We did plan on contacting the chamber of commerce as well and we are very happy that idea came up in our first group.
FORE averages about 5-6 calls a week. 80% of these calls involve people seeking help to find jobs with records, the other 20% include things such as appeals for public housing for issues pertaining to their records, questions on how to remove ARD charges from showing on their records, Landlord tenet issues, among other things.
FORE is hosting a viewing of Mary Dewitt’s art work titled Lifers at the Lebanon Valley Council for the arts on August 7, 2015.
FORE also purchased The SKIP program from The Pennsylvania Prison Society, which is a curriculum for children who have a parent in jail. We have run this in the Lebanon School district in the past, but we do not have anyone at this time available to work on this. The program is for children 8-12 years old. The issue is the elementary school has children 10-11 years old and the middle school has the 12 year olds so it was difficult lining this up. We found that once we got it in order some of the children’s parents were no longer in jail. We need to have this running back to back to be able to reach the children in need. The school liked our program and we hope to start this again in the future. We would attempt to do this by starting with the inmates at the jail filling out a request form if they would like their child to attend the group. Then we would go to the school and request that child attend the group. This of course is after all the details with the school and jail would be in place.
For more information on FORE, contact Donna Gathright at email@example.com.