PHILADELPHIA – The Federal Penitentiary Service in Eastern Pennsylvania has a return trial program called “Return Assistance Supervision (STAR)” for ex-probation offenders seeking a successful and productive return to society.
Kelvin A. Jeremiah, president and CEO of PHA, said the program, which began in 2015, was so successful that he and the PHA Board of Commissioners decided to expand it. Under a new agreement between the PHA and the U.S. Probation Office, the agency will increase the number of vouchers from 20 to 30. The agreement will run until November 2025 with the possibility of extension until 2027.
The Second Chance Voucher program is one of a number of Jeremiah-led PHA innovation programs that have become news recently, including a partnership with the Philadelphia Public College that provides low-cost housing options for school students in need.
“We started the program with 10 vouchers in 2015, and so far 20 returning citizens have successfully used the program to find homes and get their lives back on track,” Jeremiah said.
“During the program, no voucher holder complied with the PHA. I believe that these results are evidence of the impact that stable, affordable housing can have on human life, ”he continued. “For PHA it is a privilege to help these people in their transition to self-sufficiency. I want to thank USPO for their partnership in this initiative. ”
According to the U.S. Probation Office, each week up to 20 STAR program participants appear before a federal judge as a group to report on their progress. Sanctions will be imposed on them if necessary.
But after completing 52 weeks in the STAR program, participants are entitled to a reduced release period under supervision for up to one year. The PHA Voucher Program offers incentives to individuals on release under supervision who are part of the STAR program. Participation in the voucher program leads to greater stability and successful re-entry. In addition, participants should participate in the Financial Literacy Program and the PHA Housing Opportunity Program to help them find a more permanent place to live.
The U.S. Probation Office has a mission to help bring supervised individuals back into society. It maintains a pool of potential participants wishing to join the program, and has the necessary staff to manage the increase in numbers. The STAR program provides comprehensive joint oversight by judges and federal prosecutors, probation officers, return coordinators, and attorneys.
The STAR program grew out of the 2009 Second Chance for Former Offenders Act. To be eligible, returning citizens must remain in good standing with the STAR program. If after two years the person has not made enough progress to afford housing on their own, the PHA has the right, depending on the circumstances, to help the person move into public housing or a voucher program.
Stephen Williams is a Philadelphia Tribune reporter, where this story first appeared.