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“The Comeback Backpack” Helping Prepare Women for Life Post-Incarceration

AUTHOR: Keith Mernin & Elizabeth Siegelman

EMAIL: kmernin@tiu11.org & ersiegelman@cacj.us

PHONE: 814-810-7196


ARTICLE:

The first 72 hours are the most stressful when a person is released from jail. Early decisions

and desperate situations can make or break a successful return. The “Comeback Backpack” is our way of providing basic necessities that can help returning citizens navigate these critical first 3 three days.


Reentry clients who attend and complete PA CareerLink and Community Conferencing’s “Career Skills and Reentry Preparedness” course, taught monthly inside the Centre County Correctional Facility, have the option of obtaining a “Comeback Backpack” filled with everyday essentials that many of us take for granted. For example, a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner, a notebook, and a pen are among the items available. This personalized “Comeback Backpack” lets each person return to the community, their family/support system, and apply for jobs looking fresh and feeling confident.


When our backpack program began earlier this year, we were impressed with how thoughtfully clients chose items. They were thrifty and offered suggestions on what to include and what to discard. Also, if they did not have a need for a backpack, they politely declined to fill out a form and helped their classmates instead. Nothing was wasted, and needs were met.


Community and family support, employment assistance, and substance abuse treatment are the pillars of a successful reentry and reintegration to the community. The “Comeback Backpack” in conjunction with the “Career Skills and Reentry Preparedness” course, as well as the mental health and drug and alcohol programming offered by the Correctional Facility, supports each of these pillars and work together to improve reentry outcomes.


If you would like to donate to support the Comeback Backpack Program or learn more about our career skills and reentry programming please contact Keith or Elizabeth at: kmernin@tiu11.org OR ersiegelman@cacj.us



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