Rural, urban Pennsylvanians join together to address criminal justice reform

"When you're able to understand the needs and the different dynamics, you're able to better understand especially how state policies can change."

  • Rachel McDevitt

(Harrisburg) — People from Adams and Philadelphia counties are hoping their shared views on the criminal justice system can make a difference.

About 30 people came together at recent workshops run by Urban Rural Action (URA), a nonprofit group that aims to bridge the divide between people in rural and urban America.

URA partnered with the Pennsylvania Prison Society to try to build a consensus on criminal justice reforms.

“We live very differently oftentimes in urban and rural America, and when you’re able to understand the needs and the different dynamics, you’re able to better understand especially how state policies can change,” said Adams County organizer Chad Collie.

The group agreed on a set of points that include prioritizing rehabilitation over punishment, planning for re-entry after incarceration, and ensuring inmates under 18 are not held in facilities for adults.

“When you give yourself some time to talk and do that in a respectful manner, we can come to a balancing point on a lot of subjects, one of those being criminal justice reform,” Collie said.

Collie said he hopes the consensus statement from the workshops can be used to raise awareness and influence policy at the state level.

He said they plan to continue discussions on issues such as gun violence.

Collie added the workshops inspired the formation of two new groups in Adams County: one focused on re-entry services and another to examine the cash bail system.

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