Intervening Early: Why We Are Helping to Form a “Pre-Entry” Coalition for Defendants

November 6, 2019

By: Michael McKee

Philadelphia has garnered somewhat a reputation as a city demonstrating progressive reforms in the realm of criminal prosecution and alternatives to mass incarceration. Meanwhile, more and more providers serving formerly incarcerated individuals have come to recognize that successful reentry to the community begins NOT when someone is released, but rather with supportive resources prior to release.

Here at Broad Street Ministry, we say “Why wait until then?”

This month we invite individuals and agencies to join us in helping to form a “Pre-Entry” Coalition to intervene even earlier in the legal process—before a criminal case is even resolved in court!

We know that a single arrest—even when the charges are later dismissed—can have catastrophic effects on people’s lives. While many individuals are locked up for months or years awaiting trial, for those on the margins, it only takes a few days in jail to feel the “collateral damage” of incarceration, such as interruptions in mental health care, or the loss of a job, a home, or even the loss of life itself—as we’ve seen in the cases of Sandra Bland, Elliot Williams, Darren Rainey, Ricardo Cerna and Johana Medina Leon (to name but a few).

With such high stakes, Broad Street Ministry will be partnering with the Defenders Association of Philadelphia and other social service agencies in the city to facilitate a greater level of coordination and care for individuals facing criminal charges.

Broad Street concierges (case managers) regularly coordinate with defense attorneys and implement practices that center the accused and their communities as active participants in their defense. In 2018 alone, our guests avoided a combined total of 333 months (almost 30 years!) of potential jail time, probation or parole.

Meanwhile, scores of other individuals have been able to reduce the “collateral damage” of an arrest by working with BSM staff to maintain their medical care, to continue moving forward in their addiction recovery, to return to full-time employment, to access helpful resources, and—maybe most importantly—to make it to all of their court dates to resolve their case while remaining connected and valued within a supportive community of staff and peers.

Inspired by these individual success stories, Broad Street’s Reentry Services Program hopes to play an integral role in the convening of this new coalition, drawing on a variety of stakeholders and community members.

The first convening of this exciting new initiative will be hosted on Thursday, November 14, at 6:00pm at the Bonnell Auditorium of the Community College of Philadelphia. Members of Broad Street Ministry’s Reentry staff will be on-hand for conversation and brainstorming at a reception at 5:30pm where light refreshments will be provided.

We hope to see you there!

For more information, contact Michael McKee, Director of Reentry Services, michael@broadstreetministry.org, 215-735-4847, ext 116.