Harrisburg, PA – Today, nearly 300 Pennsylvania parole agents are attending the first of its kind in the nation educational event intended to educate staff about the importance of childhood education and provide them with resource information so they can assist reentrants and their families. The event was held at Harrisburg Area Community College. Two additional events are planned in Pennsylvania.
A collaborative effort -- hosted by the Department of Corrections and the departments of Human Services (DHS) and Education's (PDE) shared Office of Child Development and Early Learning -- also included prison and community corrections center counselors, social workers, unit managers, county probation officers and DHS and PDE employees.
"Our goal was to make this an all-inclusive event because we've realized that although we're in different state/county agencies, we're all serving the same people," said DOC Deputy Secretary for Reentry Kelly Evans. "The more we can educate our staff on the importance of early childhood education, the greater the impact they will have when dealing with reentrants and their families."
Evans said research shows that quality early childhood education, especially for high-risk children, is one of the best ways to break the cycle of recidivism.
"Investing in education on the front end is a win all the way around. Children are more likely to continue with their education and lead productive lives and not become involved in the criminal justice system, that is the best reentry we could hope for," Evans said.
"Parole officers play an extremely valuable role in navigating what can be a challenging and uncertain transition for returning citizens, especially if they are parenting after time away or for the first time," said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. "We need returning parents to know that their relationships are not defined by the time they spent apart. Relationships with their children can be cultivated despite this, and it is okay to need a little bit of support to help that along. Parole agents can make the connections to resources that promote healthy parent and child development for years to come."
PDE Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera said that education forms the foundation to create a meaningful future for individuals, for their families and for their children.
"Attending school, especially at an early age, develops the critical knowledge and skills individuals need to earn good-paying jobs and become active participants in their communities. Cooperative initiatives like this help us better serve all families in every community," Secretary Rivera said.
Christian Stephens, Department of Corrections deputy secretary for field services, said that parole staff, using a holistic approach to supervision, understands that childhood education plays a significant role in deterring individuals from entering our system.
"We support this concept whole heartily," Stephens said. "Parole agents not only supervise parolees, they also assist in matters of family reunification and help parolees to reestablish relationships that may have been damaged because of incarceration."
There are approximately 81,000 children who have either a parent in prison or on parole supervision. This collaborative effort is yet another way that officials can help to break the intergenerational cycle of crime. The more educated a person is, including children at very young ages, the less likely they will be to commit crimes.
Approximately 640 parole agents are responsible for supervising and interacting regularly with nearly 41,460 individuals across Pennsylvania. Each agent, on average, carries a case load of 70 parolees.
Additional information sessions for parole supervision staff are set for August, with one set for Slippery Rock, Pa., and another in the Philadelphia area (date/location yet to be determined).
Susan McNaughton, DOC -- 717-728-4025
Erin James, DHS – 717-425-7606
Eric Levis, PDE – 717-783-9803
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