Each year, more than 30,000 citizens return to Philadelphia from federal, state and county prisons. Most return jobless, without stable housing, and lacking the skills they need to succeed. For too long, the challenges facing this vulnerable population were largely ignored. However, in recent years the issue has gained a new sense of urgency, thanks to a growing dialogue around excessive incarceration, a need for greater public safety, and the desire to reduce costs for taxpayers.
Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services, or RISE, was created to serve Philadelphia’s ex-offenders and help them get back on their feet. The program’s success relies on its ability to communicate with its audience. But with RISE caseworkers juggling almost 100 clients at a time, keeping up regular communication and serving everyone’s needs is a difficult task.
RISE needed a communication tool that could reach their clients wherever they are, even those who are highly transient and often without home Internet access. With over 90 percent of Americans owning cell phones, and 81 percent using text messaging – even among ex-offenders – interactive texting was the clear choice.