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Posted on: January 18, 2017

Chester County named semifinalist in Harvard’s 2017 Innovations in American Govt Awards Competition

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The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized today Chester County’s Women’s Reentry Assessment and Programming (WRAP) initiative as part of the 100 programs named as Semifinalists in this year’s Innovations in American Government Awards competition. The WRAP initiative will compete to be named a Finalist in the competition and have the chance to be awarded the $100,000 grand prize in Cambridge this spring.


The WRAP initiative, led by Chester County’s department of Probation, Parole and Pretrial Services, advanced from a pool of more than 500 applications from all 50 states, and was selected by the Innovations Award evaluators as an example of novel and effective action whose work has had significant impact, and who they believe can be replicated across the country and the world.


Chester County’s WRAP initiative was launched in January of 2014 following extensive research to meet the needs of women who have been incarcerated, who were struggling for basic survival or who were lacking in skills to transition back into family life.   The program began with 50 women, working with one probation officer trained in motivational interviewing and trauma-informed approaches. In two years, WRAP has expanded to the current census of 149 women, using three probation officers, two full-time community case managers and curriculums and tools that address women’s risk factors. Curriculums are delivered in the jail and the community by staff and volunteers, and the early parole of program graduates has reduced jail time for women by more than 1,500 days.  Because of WRAP, arrest rates for women for new criminal charges have decreased by 61 percent since the start of the project, and technical violations of community supervision have decreased by 72 percent.


WRAP was developed with replication in mind and all aspects are easily transferable to any jurisdiction, a key component of the Innovations in American Government Awards competition.


“These programs demonstrate that there are no prerequisites for doing the good work of governing,” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center. “Small towns and massive cities, huge federal agencies and local school districts, large budgets or no budgets at all — what makes government work best is the drive to do better, and this group proves that drive can be found anywhere.”


The Semifinalist programs represent a cross-section of jurisdictions and policy areas, and embody one of the most diverse and sophisticated groups that have advanced to this stage in the competition’s 30-year history. They were invited to complete a supplementary application last fall, answering in-depth questions about their work, the process of creating and sustaining their programs, and how they believe they can teach others to do what they do. The Ash Center expects to announce 10 programs that will be named Finalists and be invited to Cambridge to present to the Innovation Awards Program’s National Selection Committee in March, with the grand prize winners to be named in June.


Please visit the Government Innovators Network at http://innovations.harvard.edu  for the full list of Semifinalists, and for more information regarding the Innovations in American Government Awards.

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