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The Citizen Recommends: PowerUp Reentry

The Reentry Project hosts the first-ever hackathon to tackle prisoner reentry

Some 60 percent of people released from prison and returning home to Philadelphia will be rearrested again within three years. That’s a revolving door that hurts everyone—from victims of crime to decimated families to communities bereft of working adults to those who are continuously arrested and sent to jail.

That’s why the city and several nonprofits have been working to slash the rate of recidivism by 25 percent over the next five years. “That’s based on research elsewhere that [proves that] when a jurisdiction changes its practice in certain ways it can reduce recidivism that much,” says Reentry Coalition Director Aviva Tevah.

Next weekend, journalists, technologists, and public officials will convene for the first ever hackathon aimed at producing innovative solutions for the successful reentry of prisoners into Philadelphia. Also joining them––a number of the 200,000 to 300,000 thousand formerly incarcerated Philadelphians.

The weekend-long “PowerUp Reentry: Digital Solutions Day” hackathon is presented by the Reentry Project, a coalition of 15 local media outlets—including The Citizen—that have spent the last year looking at ways to make the return from prison more successful for former inmates. It will be produced by Code for Philly, the local outpost of Code for America, which runs several hacking marathons a year on various topics. The event is in partnership with The Reentry Coalition, the Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services and the city’s Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation.

The event will kickoff with a two-hour session Friday evening. The goal by the end of the night, is to form well-balanced and diverse teams comprising coders, city officials and recently incarcerated. The next day, those teams will work together to create digital solutions—like an app—to address a variety of topics, including behavioral and mental health, digital and financial literacy, and cultivating leadership among the formerly incarcerated community.

In mid-afternoon, each team will have a chance to present their idea to a panel of expert judges, in the hope that they will generate enough enthusiasm to turn them into a reality.

“This is the first time we’re partnering [with other industries] in this direct way,” says Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, the project editor for the Reentry Project. “We’re hoping the connections made during this 36-hour period will continue long after, and people will be inspired to work on their own.”

Anyone is welcome to attend the event; no technology experience is needed. And the Reentry Project is still open to ideas for problems to work on, or solutions to digitize. You can throw yours into the mix here.

Tevah says she expects the weekend to be a success not just for generating great ideas, but for bringing together new people, from different industries, to tackle the issue.

“This is a city-scale challenge that’s not going to get fixed without everyone on board,” Tevah says.

Friday, October 20, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., free, Industrious, 230 Broad Street, 17th floor, and Saturday, October 21, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., at Azavea, 990 Spring Garden Street. Register here.

Header Photo: Pixabay

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