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Former Inmates No Longer Fall Through the Cracks in Allegheny County

The content below may contain dated material as it was prepared for the media in advance of Pittsburgh’s hosting of the G20 in March 2010.  

The Allegheny County Jail Collaborative, consisting of the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ), the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Allegheny County Health Department, was created in 2000 because county leadership observed that not enough was being done for former inmates to support their reentry into the community. Since that time, the Jail Collaborative has met on a monthly basis to address two primary goals: increase public safety and reduce recidivism below the staggering 71 percent of the 1990s. To achieve these goals, the Collaborative joins the forces of government agencies, court officials, service providers, ex-offenders, faith-based community organizations, families and the community at large.

The Jail Collaborative’s approach to the problem centered on reducing recidivism by focusing on treatment and services in the jail plus intensive support for exiting inmates.

The Jail Collaborative sought and received funding for evaluating the collaborative process. Tracking and evaluation of the Community Re-integration program assessed the improvements in the system and inmate outcomes. The evaluation focused on service usage, provider performance outcomes, recidivism among service participants/inmates, and length of time between screening, referral, service provision, and release.

Results from the University of Pittsburgh Allegheny County Jail Collaborative Evaluation were released on January 3, 2008. The Collaborative’s vision, a collaboration of three systems working together to successfully return inmates to the community was shown to be of value in reducing both recidivism and justice-related expenses. In addition, former inmates reported a personal value in taking part in the services.

A further improvement was realized in 2006 when, based on county-specific research and reports from across the nation, DHS decided to hire a Systems Advocate.  This individual would represent, and raise awareness about, the interests of children of incarcerated parents.

The National Association of Counties Bureau of Justice Assistance highlighted the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative in its September 2008 publication Reentry for Safer Communities.