City Hopes For Second Chance At Prisoner Re-Entry Program Funding

The city's budget woes prompted a local philanthropist earlier this year to revoke an offer to help fund a community re-entry program for prison inmates, according to Everett Gillison, the deputy mayor for public safety.  Gillison was quizzed at this morning's Criminal Justice Advisory Board meeting by District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who had heard the city missed out on millions of dollars in funding from the Lenfest Foundation for the re-entry program.

Gillison said the foundation, founded by H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest and his wife, offered the city $1 million per year for three years.  The catch:  The city had to guarantee upfront that it would match that money with its own. "The offer was made during a time when we were in the throes of cutting everybody's budget," Gillison said. "I could not in good faith say that I could actually match $1 million."

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H. F. "Gerry" Lenfest

Abraham was glad to hear from Gillison that Mayor Nutter plans to meet with Lenfest to try to get the offer restored.  “It would be a pity to not take advantage of a very generous philanthropist’s offer to give away all his money," she said. “You can’t do any better for a struggling city than to get money from somebody that wants to give it to you.”

Bruce Melgary, executive director of the Lenfest Foundation, confirmed the offer was made in January and later withdrawn when the city was unable to match the funds.  The foundation instead invested in the work of a University of Pennsylvania professor who is studying how to identify members of the community at risk for being incarcerated.  Melgary didn't know if Nutter has a meeting scheduled with Lenfest, who is touring chateaus in France and won't be back in the country for another two weeks.

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