Toward the end of the Reentry Project, we started to hear from people on the ground about the difference our work had made in the reentry space in Philadelphia. So we invited key stakeholders to give us brief testimonials about their perceptions of the meaning and outcome of our project. Here is a sample of those voices.
Jim Kenney, Mayor of Philadelphia:
The Reentry Project has explored the challenges of our criminal justice system from many different angles, and they have elevated the personal stories of many people who were too long ignored. In short, they’ve helped keep the public more informed and enlightened on this issue. Because of work like theirs, the City has been able to institute policies that have allowed us to safely reduce our jail population and improve opportunities for those returning home.
Dwight Evans, U.S. Congressman (PA-02):
I was glad to see all of the news outlets in our city come together to shine an important spotlight on the issue of reentry. It is so critical for us to come together and find a way to get people back into the mainstream and our workforce. It is on us, it is our job to remove the barriers that keep people from re-acclimating back into our neighborhoods. We cannot have barriers that keep people from being productive; we must help people get back on their feet. I always say, a job is the best answer to poverty. A good, decent job is key to changing the outcome. That is why I was so pleased to see your reporting shine a light on models that work—such as Philabundance Community Kitchen and what Jeff Brown is doing with UpLift Solutions and ShopRite. I look forward to your next series of reporting about another critical issue impacting our neighborhoods.
Ceciley Bradford-Jones, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services (RISE):
The Reentry Project should absolutely be commended for their coverage and investigative dive into the daunting and often dismal world of reintegration services. It was obvious that the Project was going to highlight some failures of the system, however; in a heroic balancing act, the journalist and investigative teams shined an even brighter light on those models, organizations, and individuals whose magnificent work is really moving the needle in a positive direction. Another accomplishment of the project that I am truly grateful for is the expansion of the conversation to people who were not already “in the loop.” The reentry landscape is rather small, we are often in meetings or at events with the same people (preaching to the choir). The events that were hosted and the articles that were written clearly nudged others outside of our “regulars” to stop and consider the issues. In my mind – that is how we are going to work to resolve our issues and improve the outcomes for people returning to Philly from incarceration. We must think outside our normal reentry box and work collectively with all those so moved to help. #ThoughfulandImapctfulJournalism #TogetherWeRISE
Nancy D. Franke, MSW, Director, Goldring Reentry Initiative
The Reentry Project is more than a news source; it is much closer to where a social work perspective meets the ears and eyes of readers, presenting the people directly impacted as the experts on their own lives and on the systems within which they are trapped. The Reentry Project is uniquely able and willing to intertwine the human lives of people involved in the criminal justice system with the policies, procedures, and systems that impact them. By showcasing the humanity of these stories, the Reentry Project’s reporting does more than just add to the news cycle–it makes people stop and truly consider the lives of their fellow Philadelphians.
Lauren Fine, Esq, Co-Director, Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP):
The Reentry Project has taken a powerful and innovative approach to shining a light on so many aspects of our criminal justice system in Philadelphia and how it impacts those who have come in contact with it. Perhaps most importantly, it has told stories that need to be told, and humanized people and issues that the criminal justice system touches in our city. In a city like Philadelphia with such a shamefully high and disproportionate rate of incarceration, bearing witness and sharing stories is essential. The Reentry Project helped lay a foundation for reform efforts by injecting conversations into the mainstream media that otherwise would not have happened. The Project has really shifted the landscape in Philadelphia. It has made me think differently about the role of the media in policy reform, and I am grateful for it.
The Reentry Think Tank:
Our mission at the Reentry Think Tank is to amplify the stories, dreams, and demands of those in reentry…to look to those most impacted as the experts we most need when reimagining our broken legal system. Having a chance to work with the Reentry Project, with their focus on solutions (not perpetuating tired and negative stereotypes), has had a huge impact on our project and most importantly, on the amazing people in reentry we work with. With every story, event, or initiative we collaborated on, the Think Tank fellows saw their voices and visions validated, amplified, and celebrated. These cross sector collaborations are essential to engaging these issues on personal, organizational, and systemic levels.
Aviva Tevah, Director, Philadelphia Reentry Coalition, City of Philadelphia’s Office of Criminal Justice, City of Philadelphia:
The Reentry Project increased the amount of media coverage on the issue of reentry, which was certainly welcome in a place like Philadelphia where it affects so many people and communities, but is otherwise often covered in a relatively flat manner, sometimes even reinforcing damaging stereotypes or repeating misinformation. By bringing together the media outlets and journalists who were covering reentry, the Reentry Project created an opportunity to add nuance and depth to the reporting on the topic, and pushed the collective to do so in a more impactful way (for example, by streamlining information and encouraging reporters to be more accurate with terminology, like that associated with recidivism, and with discussions of the language used in the media to refer to people who have been incarcerated or convicted of crimes).
Jondhi Harrell, Founder and Executive Director, The Center for Returning Citizens, TCRC:
I was so pleased to be a part of the planning and implementation of the Reentry Project’s culminating event: The Reentry Blueprint: Stories and Solutions from the formerly incarcerated. It was instructive, innovative, a clear hit from the responses of the audience and those listening on the radio or live streaming. The simple fact is the best solutions will come from those with direct lived experience who have literally spent decades considering what needs to be done. The reporting of the event was well coordinated, greatly received in the community and inspiring not only to those who are impacted but to many individuals who are sensitive to the issues and looking for quality leadership and direction. The Reentry Project is be highly commended for creating the atmosphere and audience to receive such an important offering and organizing the event on such a high level.