Letter to the editor: Successful re-entry programs help individuals, families and businesses

I read with interest the recent article by Sam Waltz, “Path from prison to workplace should be on employers’ radar.” I would like to provide further insight as to why re-entry is important to the business community.

I am the founder and executive director of Project New Start Inc. In 2013, as the city of Wilmington began to experience an epidemic of gun violence, Project New Start was created to be a catalyst for positive change and to address several of the root causes of this violence: poverty, the lack of economic opportunities and high dropout rates. Project New Start’s mission is to create programs and partnerships that assist individuals in transition regain their dignity and contribute positively to their families and communities.

Project New Start provides a comprehensive, 10-week, 375-hour re-entry program that assists high-risk offenders as they transition back to the community, their families and employment. The focus of our New Start Reentry Program is on cognitive restructuring, the development of marketable employment skills and job placement. Our demographics:

• 85 percent of participants reside in the 19801, 19802 or 19805 ZIP codes of Wilmington

• 90 percent are minority.

• 95 percent are male.

• The average age of participants is 28 years old

• 42 percent do not have a high school diploma or GED.

• The average term of incarceration prior to entering our program is 59 months.

The reason it’s important for businesses to be invested in re-entry is very simple: The return on investment is real and significant.

• From 2013 to 2017, 58 ex-offenders have graduated from the New Start program, and 55 have secured employment – a 95 percent placement rate.

• 78 percent are sustaining their success and are now contributing, tax-paying citizens.

• These successful graduates are saving the State of Delaware over $1.5 million per year in costs that would be incurred to support their incarceration.

This success is the result of a rigorous commitment to program excellence and participant support by Project New Start; the challenging commitment to positive change by program participants; and the trust and support of our employer partners.

Ninety-five percent of adults sentenced to prison will return to the community and re-entry is their next step. I encourage the business community to become that next step.


Priscilla Turgon is executive director of Project New Start Inc., based in Claymont.

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