How Pittsburgh Federal Re-entry Effort Tries to Straighten Out Addicts


There are nearly 219,000 people in federal prisons, and almost all will come out, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Michelle emerged from prison t age 36 in 2010 after a six-year sentence for conspiring to sell heroin. She had already served state time, and when her federal probation officer told her about a new, intensive program designed to get her life on track, she jumped at it.

She joined the Reentry Into Society Effort, or RISE, a 2-year-old effort, kept quiet until recently, that is in the midst of an expansion. Twenty convicts have been through RISE, with 10 in the program now, and U.S. Attorney David Hickton said that’s not enough. RISE, the brainchild of U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose, is a court within a court. There, a cohort of recently released convicts, all facing lengthy probation sentences, spends a year living in a judicial fishbowl. Invitations to the RISE process go only to convicts with addiction problems, and they have a right to refuse. Meetings of participants “just opened my eyes to a lot of things, just to hear everybody else’s story and what they’re going through at that time,” Michelle said. “The same things [they] had done, I’d done. I’d done that since I was 12 years old. I didn’t want to live that life no more.”

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