Giving second chances to vulnerable men, women and dogs

We reduce the chances of people returning to prison and rescue at-risk dogs. We accomplish this by nurturing the powerful bond between dogs and humans

New Leash on Life USA gives second chances to incarcerated individuals with an intensive program including life skills, career readiness and comprehensive case management.  Men and women in the Philadelphia area are prepared for a successful transition back into their communities and the uncertainty they experience coming home without work is eliminated.

The New Leash program increases employment options and provides a means for developing responsibility and productivity among individuals in need. By engaging the community in providing solutions to recidivism, New Leash gives returning citizens equal possibilities to make the choices that lead to a better life, creating safer communities and increasing equity and opportunity in Philadelphia.

At-risk dogs are rescued from local shelters, paired with inmate trainers. Living side by side in the cells 24/7, inmates are taught the skills to socialize and care for their charges and prepare them for adoption as well behaved, healthy companions.

What is the community need this idea addresses?

Many returning citizens leave prison without having had meaningful job experience and find few employers willing to take a chance on them. While the expectation is for these returning citizens to reenter society and become productive citizens, they have few resources to support that intention and face a wide variety of roadblocks.

Philadelphia has the highest per capita incarceration rate of the 10 largest U.S. cities, with almost 7 out of every thousand citizens behind bars. The city spends seven cents of every dollar on its prisons – more than on any other function besides police and human services. There are 36,000 people moving through Philadelphia Department of Prisons annually (about 100 people admitted every day).

With over 18,000 animals surrendered to the city shelter annually, New Leash not only saves dogs at risk of euthanasia but also opens up space in shelters for more animals in need.

What is the solution that is currently in place?

The New Leash provides a range of services designed to meet the individual’s unique needs while building a culture of success and possibility. We reduce recidivism and restore lives through jobs and housing by providing the skills and opportunities that allow formerly unemployable, repeat offenders rise above poverty and become contributing citizens in Philadelphia.

The program begins in prison and includes 200 hours of job training and life skills workshops. Inmates also benefit from intensive interaction with their dogs and develop empathy for dogs that would likely have been euthanized for illness, lack of space or behavior issues.

Upon release, returning citizens participate in 90 days of reentry support and placed in paid internships.

By creating customized reentry plans and support to help each returning citizen reintegrate into society, we are able to strengthen families and build stronger, safer communities. And we provide loving pets for adoption by local families.

How will a key to the community grant help?

This grant would offer New Leash an opportunity to expand the number of sessions we conduct annually at the Philadelphia Department of Prisons and include more female participants who need additional supports and services such as parenting skills classes and trauma recovery. We could also extend paid internships and transportation passes and provide a full-time case manager giving our participants more customized services.  Additional funding would also allow us to rescue more at-risk dogs including those with treatable medical issues. Finally, this support would give us the ability to expand our foster network and care for dogs with longer-term needs.

Idea Submitted by:

New Leash on Life USA

New Leash on Life USA is a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation that was incorporated in 2010.  New Leash began its first program at the Philadelphia Department of Prisons in Philadelphia in 2011. Programs were also conducted at Graterford State Prison and Rockview State Prison. New Leash is one of the most successful recidivism reduction organizations in the area. Staff includes formerly incarcerated individuals with whom the participants relate to and trust, thereby creating a more inclusive and successive model.  New Leash has formed a Returning Citizen Reentry Subcommittee to enhance and improve our services and supports. Graduates of the New Leash program are part of this committee and are actively engaged in providing their insights into service improvements. New Leash is also a member of the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition to access the latest information, data and issues in the community regarding recidivism and reentry best practices.