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These 300 re-entrants were sentenced to life as kids. Who will help them reintegrate?

Open jail cells. July 11, 2016 Category: PurposeShort

The City of Philadelphia and the  Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have both made some big moves this year to crack down on recidivism rates and mass incarceration. But the next challenge on the re-entry front is on the horizon for Philadelphia, and with it comes some new challenges for social service providers and businesses.

Across the state, 507 individuals sentenced as juveniles to life without parole are being released under a law found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Of those 507 individuals, 295 are from Philadelphia — many aged well into adulthood and lacking money, support networks and work experience.

“They didn’t finish growing up [before they entered prison],” Pennsylvania Prison Society‘s Steve Gotzler told the Inquirer. “All the normal developmental things didn’t get a chance to happen.”

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What will keep those 295 individuals from getting yanked back into the way of life that put them in prison in the first place — a phenomenon Media in Neighborhoods Group cofounder El Sawyer has dubbed the “pull of gravity?”

This wave of newly-released individuals will put nonprofits tasked with cutting recidivism rates and getting formerly incarcerated individuals prepared to be productive members of society to the test. Can popularly funded re-entry programs like Center for Employment Opportunities step up to the plate and prove their programs should continue to be scaled, or will this new challenge give rise to new players — or both?

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