THE PROGRAM - Building a New Site for the Future
THE PROGRAM for Offenders, Inc. [THE PROGRAM] pioneered the development of community corrections in Allegheny County and has provided exemplary residential services for more than 30 years. THE PROGRAM has grown from a two-person storefront operation into an internationally recognized model program that deals expertly with the complex and troubled inmate population and, in particular, with the needs of non-violent incarcerated women.
THE PROGRAM has always worked effectively with local and federal jurisdictions, and has developed programs and facilities at the request of Allegheny County, PA to solve pressing problems of overcrowding and gaps in service delivery in the local criminal justice system. THE PROGRAM has acquired and is renovating the Keystone Plumbing Sales Company site on 7th Avenue in West Homestead. The first stage of the renovation will convert existing retail space into a 15,000 square foot intensive inpatient treatment facility for female offenders who are eligible for alternative housing. In the second stage of renovation, THE PROGRAM would expand its capacity to 230 beds. With a combined area of 76,727 square feet in two buildings on a 1.55 acre campus, THE PROGRAM can provide long-term solutions in local corrections with social, economic, and public safety benefits that will:
- Provide mandated health care at appropriate levels to a currently under served population. THE PROGRAM will offer intensive inpatient treatment services at this facility to incarcerated women – a level of service not currently available to this population in the Allegheny County Jail. Treating this population at the appropriate level of service will improve outcomes and significantly enhance participants’ re-entry to the community.
- Develop an alternative to incarceration for non-violent women that would greatly facilitate management of the increasing Jail population and the backlog of sentenced offenders awaiting incarceration. Ultimately, the 230-bed project could be a complete alternative, with its own intake center, for non-violent female offenders who would otherwise be housed in the Jail. The Allegheny County Jail lacks the capacity to house all offenders sentenced pursuant to mandatory minimum sentencing requirements. By diverting almost all women from the Jail, the County will free space in at least two Pods and save on the cost of medical treatment for women’s health issues.
- Improve outcomes with the under served female Jail population through gender-responsive trauma-informed treatment and culture. Research shows that women are a poor fit in conventional corrections culture because of their history of trauma and abuse. Allegheny County has already won acclaim for its Reentry Center service delivery model, which has been of most benefit to the Jail’s predominantly male population. THE PROGRAM’s proposed women’s facility would be a complementary model program -- the first to implement trauma-informed services to incarcerated women in a trauma-sensitive culture -- that will be of national interest.
- Strengthen families and deter inter-generational crime. THE PROGRAM is the only alternative housing provider that has historically accepted pregnant offenders and allowed young children to reside with their incarcerated mothers. THE PROGRAM can continue this practice in the West Homestead facility and expand its capacity for such programming in the longer term. This will make a material difference in achieving family reunification objectives, long a problem with this challenged population.
- Reduce recidivism by facilitating re-entry with public safety protections. THE PROGRAM’s recidivism rates are consistently among the lowest in the nation. If the County is serious about achieving the recidivism goals of the Allegheny County Jail Collaborative, its strategy must include more innovative ways to reintegrate offenders into the community. Local and state officials in Pennsylvania have called for increased use of community corrections to save costs, but they are also sensitive to concerns for public safety. THE PROGRAM’s facility will provide the means to accomplish both goals, while also realizing significant social and economic benefits.
- Promote business development and job growth in Oakland and West Homestead. THE PROGRAM searched for almost 4 years to find an appropriate site for its programs and a community willing to accept it as a neighbor. The West Homestead site is ideal for THE PROGRAM’s purposes, and Borough leaders have embraced this project with an unprecedented degree of cooperation. The project will renovate, preserve and maintain a highly visible structure in West Homestead, resulting in additional jobs, tax revenue and spending in the area.
- Leverage the economic potential of County-owned properties. THE PROGRAM would relocate its existing female corrections population from County-owned facilities on a prime parcel along the Oakland “Eds & Meds” corridor, freeing this property for sale and development and potential restoration to property tax rolls.
THE PROGRAM’s project creates exciting possibilities in a synergy that works across many facets of County government. It will solve problems and improve outcomes in local corrections; it will enhance outcomes and bolster capacity across the Allegheny County Department of Human Services; it will be an engine for economic development; and it will bring added social and economic benefits to the community at large. Perhaps the best news for our foundation and donor partners is that, for a relatively small investment, they can secure significant social and economic benefits for our region.