Recidivism reformers take top prize at 7th Annual Penn Public Policy Challenge

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March 1, 2016

Philadelphia, PA – Championing a proposal for prison-issued ID for returning citizens, student members of the “Individual Dignity Project” clinched top prize at the 7th Annual Penn Public Policy Competition last weekend. Salomon Moreno-Rosa, Samantha Waxman and Sarai Williams walked away with a guaranteed slot at the national competition in March – and a $5,000 check to further develop their policy proposal.

“It’s an incredible honor to have been recognized,” said Salomon Moreno-Rosa, a dual-degree candidate at both Penn’s Fels Institute of Government and Graduate School of Education. “Each of Penn’s five competing teams had such good ideas and presented so well. We’re grateful – and looking forward to nationals in a few weeks.”

In addition to Moreno-Rosa, the team included Samantha Waxman, a Master’s candidate at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice, and Sarai Williams, a Master’s candidate in Master's Candidate of City & Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture.

The 7th Annual Public Policy Challenge was held Sunday at WHYY and saw five teams comprising of students from across Penn’s community competing before a panel of distinguished civic leaders and public servants. Recidivism, litter-reduction, youth health insurance literacy, and youth homelessness were among the issues covered.

The “Individual Dignity Project” proposed a pilot program at Philadelphia's State Road prison in which all exiting prisoners would receive a printed, state-issued ID card on site upon release. Currently, Pennsylvania’s DMV facilities do not accept prison documentation as proof of identity meaning returning citizens may be delayed or prevented from applying for jobs, benefits and services, or housing. These barriers to reintegration lead to higher recidivism rates.

Ted Gaebler, a veritable public policy legend and author of the best-selling industry standard Reinventing Government, served as one of the panelists judging the teams. After a rigorous question-and-answer session in which the team had to prove the feasibility of their approach, he delivered one of the highest compliments of the day: “You’ve convinced me.”

That’s good news for the “Individual Dignity Project” going into the national competition in just a few weeks where they’ll face teams from universities across the country.

Sitting on the judges’ panel for the 7th Annual Public Policy Challenge were Luke Butler, Manager, Strategy and Operations, Curalate; Councilman Allan Domb, City Councilor At-Large, City of Philadelphia; Representative Dwight Evans, 203rd Legislative District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives; Ted Gaebler, Former City Manager and best-selling author of Reinventing Government; Councilwoman Helen Gym, City Councilor at Large, City of Philadelphia, and Bret Perkins, Vice President, External and Government Affairs, Comcast Corporation.

The “Individual Dignity Project” executive summary can be found here.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326

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