(Photo by Tony Abraham)
When former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter revamped the Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services (RISE) in 2010, the idea was to “not only make RISE more accessible to all Philadelphians, but also smarter in its provision of resources.”
Changes included relocating the office to Center City, where it sat among other city offices, departments and services such as probation and parole and city courts.
About three years ago, RISE, which is essentially a workforce development office for returning citizens, moved again to a shared office building on 10th and Spring Garden streets. The location has taken its toll on foot traffic numbers, said new Executive Director Ceciley Bradford-Jones.
“We’re at low numbers,” said Bradford-Jones, who moved to RISE from the Center for Employment Opportunities this past fall. “We haven’t had an influx of participants in a while.”
Bradford-Jones was unable to supply data. That information, she said, is” strictly anecdotal” and “derived from perception of services being offered.” The Inquirer has reported the number of visitors to be approximately 1,500 people a year. Regardless, the message remains the same.
“Probation and parole, the courts and City Hall are all centralized. It’s all circular there,” said Bradford-Jones. “We’re on the outskirts.”
RISE plays an integral role in meeting goals related to the city’s MacArthur grant, which aims to reduce Philadelphia’s prison population by 34 percent over the next three years.
That goal will be all the more harder to reach if the city’s Office of Reintegration Services can’t help quell surging recidivism rates — Philadelphia has an estimated recidivism rate of 65 percent — by getting returning citizens ready for work.
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“When folks are coming home from prison, we want to be their initial stop, centralized in a place they can get to us very quickly,” said Bradford-Jones.
And stay enrolled in RISE’s for as long as they need. Historically, said Bradford-Jones, RISE has worked with returning citizens for a year.
“I don’t think that’s long enough. Not even close,” said Bradford-Jones. “Some people only need six months, but people who need longer should be able to work with us for longer.”
But they’ll need to get there first.-30-
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