"C o r r e c t i o n a l   N e w s f r o n t"

Click HERE to see older issues of our newsletter 

 

2014 News

 

Week of April 21 Postings...

Spotlight on PCI’s Knitting Mill at SCI Graterford

 

The Pennsylvania Correctional Industries Knitting Mill at SCI Graterford consists of the Underwear and Hosiery Shops. Underwear, socks and knit caps are manufactured for standard issue and commissary sales to inmates throughout the state.   More than 15,000 pounds of yarn are knit into cloth used for making garments each month.

 

CI teaches inmates good work ethics (such as getting up early for work) and teamwork. It gives inmates a sense of purpose and the confidence that they are capable of earning an honest living and supporting themselves without help.

 

The knitting mill’s production will continue into the future when it is relocated to SCI Phoenix. The size of the plant will be smaller, but more efficient machinery and streamlined procedures are expected to increase output.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

 

Women’s History Month Celebrated at SCI Graterford

 

Approximately 80 employees attended the Women’s History Month Celebration held at SCI Graterford recently, which included a covered dish luncheon, which was held in the Muster Room. Reverend Edward Neiderhiser began the luncheon with the Invocation. Guest speakers and participants alike, shared stories of women who have in-spired them to become the person they are today.

 

Deputy Superintendent Cynthia Link, Personnel Director Dana Williams and Captain Etta Williams spoke about women, their mothers in particular, who have inspired them to be strong, committed and to always do their best.  Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz commented on the high number of women in various positions at SCI Graterford and commended them for their invaluable contributions to the institution. Deputy Superintendent George Ondrejka and Major Thomas Dohman also spoke about the positive influences of the women in their lives and at Graterford. Attendees, who spoke, shared stories honoring their mothers who may have had struggles, but persevered to guide their children with love, strength and a caring heart.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Coal Names Employee of the 1st Quarter of 2014

Corrections Officer 1 Ricky Burgos was recently named Employee of the Quarter at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township.  He was nominated by his coworkers for his dedication to the prison and for his willingness to help any staff member regardless of the time or situation.  Officer Burgos applies his personal qualities to his job, his relationships with staff and inmates and is the first person to respond to aid fellow employees on a daily basis.  Upon receiving the award, Officer Burgos said, "I appreciate the recognition, but it's our job to ensure that all staff go home to their families each and every day."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Bunny Run"

SCI Graterford employees recently participated in the "Bunny Run" by donating items for children in local hospitals.  On April 19, more than 100 donated stuffed animals and small toys were delivered to Pottstown Medical Center by the prison's Licensed Practical Nurse Dennis Keim.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of April 14 Postings...

Inmate Litter Crews Will Pick Up Trash

This month and next month, citizens should see DOC inmate litter crews working along various highways picking up trash as part of the Great American Cleanup of PA. Crews from SCIs Coal Township, Mercer, Laurel Highlands and Greene will be active through early- to mid-May.

Please use caution when driving in areas where inmate crews are working.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Donations to Wayne County MH/MR

Recently, SCI Waymart's Community Support Committee distributed 30 Easter baskets to children served by Wayne County's MH/MR, Children and Youth Services and Victims Intervention programs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

SCI Coal Township Employees Donate to Local Food Pantry

Shamokin – SCI Coal Township recently held their annual food drive to benefit Manna for the Many, located in Shamokin.  Various food items were delivered to Manna on April 14th.  Manna for the Many is a local food pantry established through the Shamokin Area Ministerium to serve those in need in the Shamokin/Coal Township area.  Manna opened its doors in 2000 and is supported entirely by private donations and staffed solely by volunteers. 

Pictured with some of the donated items are Lieutenant James Eveland, Lieutenant Art Masser, Amie Newman and Karen Leonard, Superintendent’s Office.

NOTE:  We are experiencing problems uploading photos, and will post the photo that accompanies this article shortly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Frackville Employees Donate to Local SPCA

 

Recently, SCI Frackville's Empowerment Committee held a Hoagie Day in the visiting room for staff, where employees enjoyed a made-to-order hoagie, salads, chips, soda and ice cream for a small donation.  The Empowerment Committee also put a laundry cart in the Admin Lobby where staff could bring in used blankets, dog food, cat food, treats and other items.   As a result of these efforts, the Empowerment Committee gave more than 300 pounds of food and other items, plus a $425 donation to the Hillside SPCA in Pottsville.  Presenting the check on behalf of the Empowerment Committee is Capt. Dave Clemson.  SCI Frackville employees always step up to help in their community, this time it was for their furry friends.

 

 

 

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of April 7 Postings...

Principals Meeting Held

The semi-annual Corrections School Principal meeting was held recently at the Elizabethtown Training Academy.  This training included information regarding the new electronic GED computerized testing, education data collection procedures, Corrections Education Audit, Adult Commonwealth Secondary Diploma information as well as a variety of other relevant education department related topics.  During this meeting, recognition was given to soon to be retired Western Region Chief Larry Beatty.  Training academy culinary staff offered to provide a cake in recognition of Mr. Beatty’s contribution to the Bureau of Correction Education.  The cake was prepared and decorated by an inmate student who had successfully completed the culinary arts program under the direction of Todd Lewis and now works in the academy culinary department under the direction and supervision of Shane Hiner.   Congratulations to Chief Beatty and thanks to Director Dooley and the entire academy staff for making the training opportunity a pleasant one.

 

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of March 24 Postings...

Corrections Secretary Appoints New SCI Greene Superintendent

Harrisburg – (March 28) Robert D. Gilmore, a 23-year corrections veteran, has been appointed superintendent at the State Correctional Institution Greene effective March 29, 2014, Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel announced.

“Robert has progressed through many levels of corrections’ responsibilities.  His experience will be invaluable as he uses his skills to empower staff and move SCI Greene forward in its mission,” said Secretary Wetzel.

Gilmore began his employment with the state as a corrections officer at SCI Graterford in 1990.  He transferred to SCI Albion in 1994.  While at SCI Albion, he promoted to sergeant. 

In 1998, he promoted to lieutenant and transferred to SCI Cambridge Springs where he served as emergency preparedness coordinator from 1999 to 2004.  Gilmore intermittently served as acting captain during 2003.  In December 2003, Gilmore became major of the guard.

In 2004, he returned to SCI Albion as a captain then he was appointed to major of the guard in 2007.  Gilmore served as major of the guard on the transition team at SCI Pittsburgh May 2011 through August 2011.  He returned to his duties at SCI Albion.

Gilmore was appointed deputy superintendent of centralized services at SCI Greene in 2012.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

SCI Forest Opens DOC's 2nd Security Threat Gang Management Unit (STGMU)

 

Recently, SCI Forest began receiving inmates for its new Security Threat Gang Management Unit (STGMU), which has an initial capacity for 48 inmates.

 

In August 2012, the DOC opened its first STGMU at SCI Greene. The special housing unit is used to house continually disruptive, violent and dangerous offenders, specifically those with gang affiliations.

“These housing units are designed for individuals who have poor prison adjustment, incurred numerous misconducts and/or known gang affiliations,” DOC Secretary John Wetzel said. “These individuals often pose operational and security concerns for prison staff. The goal of this unit is to change their behavior and return them to general population as more productive and positive individuals.” 

The behavior modification delivered in the unit provides specific phases through which each offender must progress, thus earning increased privileges and services. Inmates begin at Phase 5, which is the most restrictive, and work toward Phase 1, with each phase lasting a minimum of three months. There is no maximum time limit on each phase.

In the unit, each inmate will be given a treatment plan based upon his present level of functioning, recent historical information and current gang status. The plan reflects specific goals and treatments to address problematic behaviors. The inmate is reviewed every 30 days and can move backward or forward through the phases based upon his progress.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Policy and Corrections Leaders Weigh Tactics to Curb Recidivism

National Forum Brings Together 13 States Competing for “Statewide Recidivism Reduction” Grants

Washington, DC (March 27) -- Teams of policymakers—including governors’ advisors and corrections agency administrators from 13 states—will meet in Washington today to discuss strategies to improve success rates for people released from prison. The purpose of the forum is to promote peer learning as these states engage in developing strategic statewide recidivism reduction plans.

Representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice are joining the state leaders to highlight how the federal government can work in partnership with states to pursue cost-effective strategies that provide a strong return on investments in public safety. Hosted by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, this forum brings together 13 states awarded Statewide Recidivism Reduction planning grants through the Second Chance Act in fiscal year 2013: Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia.

The Statewide Recidivism Reduction grant program is a multi-year, multi-phased approach intended to create state centers of excellence that can serve as national models for how to effectively reduce statewide recidivism. Upon the successful completion of their plans, the 13 grantees will be eligible to compete for implementation funding of up to $3 million to achieve their strategic and tactical recidivism reduction plans. Pending appropriations, final site selection will be announced by Sept. 30, 2014.

 

“The Second Chance Act has provided a means for federal, state and local governments to work together to promote public safety in our communities,” said Bureau of Justice Assistance Director Denise O’Donnell. “It is our vision that the final Statewide Recidivism Reduction grantees will become learning sites for other states desiring to implement effective recidivism reduction efforts.”

This forum builds off a national event held in December 2011 where corrections leaders and policymakers from all 50 states committed to furthering the goals of improved reentry and public safety through recidivism reduction. Discussions at today’s event will demonstrate the progress made over the past two years, as well as the need for additional investments to build the capacity of state corrections agencies to effectively bend the curve on recidivism.

“The Statewide Recidivism Reduction planning grant has provided a tremendous opportunity to bring together state leaders and build on our plan to meet the Governor’s goals of reduced recidivism and improved public safety,” said PA DOC Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. “During this period of limited resources, we need to make sustainable investments in the most impactful policies and programs."

At the forum, participants will also engage in learning exchanges to share successes in how strategic plans can be fulfilled and integrated into crime policy goals and priorities for the states, with or without additional federal funding.

“A Statewide Recidivism Reduction implementation grant would provide us with resources to build our agency’s capacity to implement effective practices,” said PADOC Executive Deputy Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal. “It also provides us leverage to advocate for executive and statutory policy changes and state funding investments that will allow us to see sustained reductions in recidivism over the long-term.”

State leaders will leave the forum with clear goals and expectations for their Statewide Recidivism Reduction plans, which will be completed and submitted to the Bureau of Justice Assistance for review in early summer. The announcement of the final fiscal year 2014 sites will mark the two-year anniversary of the Statewide Recidivism Reduction grant program.

The Second Chance Act has supported state and local investments in effective reentry programs for more than five years. Signed into law on April 9, 2008, legislators designed the Second Chance Act to improve outcomes for people returning to communities from prisons and jails. This first-of-its-kind legislation authorizes federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victims’ support and other services that can help reduce recidivism. The Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2013 was introduced in November of last year.

Today’s forum is hosted by Bureau of Justice Assistance and was planned in partnership with the Council of State Governments Justice Center, Association of State Correctional Administrators, and National Governors Association.

About The Council of State Governments Justice Center

The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. Staff provides practical, nonpartisan advice and evidence-based, consensus-driven strategies to increase public safety and strengthen communities. For more about the CSG Justice Center, please visit www.csgjusticecenter.org.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Honoring a Corrections Friend

SCI Mahanoy's Honor Guard recently traveled to Folsom State Prison as part of the Corrections Peace Officer Foundation to honor Larry Corby. Corby had worked at Folsom for more than 30 years and is a founding member of CPOF, which has assisted countless of PA DOC employees in their times of need.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Reentry Initiative

Since 2011, the DOC and PennDOT have been working together to provide inmates who are returning home with updated driver's licenses or non-driver's license photo id's.  Since 2011, more than 16,000 individuals have received these items, which will help them reenter society successfully, as for many things (job interviews, housing, medical benefits) they need some form of official identification.  In 2013 alone, more than 9,100 id's have been provided.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of March 17 Postings...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Allentown CCC Thanked

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wintry Wonderland?

This winter has been a tough one with lots of snow and even ice.  In an effort to help local communities, residents from community corrections centers helped remove snow.  In region 1 (the eastern part of the state), eight centers and more than 50 inmates provided more than 1,000 hours shoveling snow from walkways and sidewalks at churches, homeless shelters and local senior citizen centers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A message from Superintendent Louis S. Folino to his SCI Greene Co-Workers

I wish to express that it has been my genuine pleasure to have served you in the capacity of your Superintendent at SCI-Greene. In this way I was able to interact with many of you on a regular basis, and to facilitate for you the things necessary in order for you to do your jobs most effectively, and safely. It has been a fun and satisfying ride for me at your facility. I will truly miss the fast pace of our operations and the friendly exchanges with so many quality individuals.

It has been especially reinforcing for me to consistently receive positive feedback from numerous DOC Central Office Officials and our sister facilities personnel, concerning the professionalism of our employees, the efficiency of our operations and the well established reputation of teamwork of SCI-Greene’s personnel. I have been very fortunate for nearly eleven years to have been affiliated with such a highly successful Correctional Institution. The favorable working relationships and degree of inmate compliance we enjoy today are the result of the consistent efforts and performance of the various departments, shifts, and employees working together.

 

I will truly miss the camaraderie with you all. Thank you for your dedicated service and your fellowship. Appreciation also for your favorable reception upon my arrival in 2003, and your cooperation and hospitality during this time.

I encourage everyone to maintain a positive outlook and to resist negativism. Continue to work together to protect the Outstanding culture you have established at SCI-Greene, which has resulted in a desirable and favorable place to work on a daily basis.

 

Best Wishes and Continued Success with your personal lives, careers and SCI-Greene!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Tim Seibel Memorial "Hot Shot" Challenge

SCI Greene's Activities Department recently held the 8th Annual Tim Seibel Memorial "Hot Shot" Challenge to benefit the American Heart Association.  Mr. Seibel’s wife and immediate family, who were in attendance, continue to be extremely grateful for the tribute and respect received from SCI Greene staff and inmates. The staff event consisted of 20 male and female participants competing in a timed free throw and 3 point competition. The Activities Committee of Enrichment (ACE) sponsored the inmate event which consisted of 27 participants who made charitable donations as well. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Greene Begins Dog Training Program

SCI Greene, on March 26, will join other state prisons that train service dogs in partnership with Canine Partners For Life.  On that day puppies will arrive and begin their training.

Started in 1989 by Darlene Sullivan, executive director, Canine Partners for Life is a non-profit corporation that provides certified service dogs to people with physical and cognitive disabilities. Darlene started this program in her home and has expanded the program to include a 45 acre state of the art kennel and campus that has placed over 500 dogs in 43 states.

 

This program has been operating in PA State institutions since 2002 when the proposal was presented to the prisons. State Correctional Institutions at Cambridge Springs, and Muncy were the first to respond. Since that time it has been expanded to Albion, Smithfield and will soon be in place at Greene.

 

The puppies are trained in the institution for approximately one year. After the year at the institution

the dogs go on to advanced training for another year to adapt to the particular needs of a person with limited mobility. This training includes tasks such as turning on light switches, helping a person change clothes, assisting with a wheel chair, retrieving such items as a phone and similar duties that help people become more independent.

 

The inmates will share their cell space and their lives for the next year, 24 hours a day. The ten inmates will get together every day to participate in obedience classes.  A volunteer trainer will come to the institution every week or two to provide ongoing training and evaluation. This program will instill a sense of responsibility, discipline, and social awareness for the inmates involved. This program is completely voluntary and inmate handlers will not be compensated.

 

Staff members will also have an opportunity to take a puppy home for a weekend visit. Before being permitted to take a dog home, the individual must go through a 4- hour training course with Canine Partners for Life. Staff volunteers are an essential part of this program, and everyone having an interest is encouraged to volunteer.

 

Information can be found at www.k94life.org

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Words of Wisdom from a Retiring Regional Deputy Secretary

 

When I started there were 7 prisons and about 7,000 inmates, and the entire Bureau of Correction employed around 2,000 staff... and John Wetzel was 9½. Fast forward 34½ years and we have 25 facilities and a motivational boot camp, 53,000 offenders and a compliment of almost 17,000 staff... and now John Wetzel is my boss. Funny how things work out!

 

From time to time people ask me for advice, or ask how I got where I am. So I gave that some thought and came up some of the things I’ve learned over the years that helped guide me from me from a young COT on the blocks @ Graterford to the 3rd floor of Central Office.

 

From COT to Regional Deputy Secretary in 12 easy steps; a life long journey:

 

Come to work; be there on time and then work when you get there.

 

Do the right thing regardless of who’s watching.

 

Look for the person that the boss always goes to when they need a complicated project completed quickly and correctly, you found a mentor.

 

Volunteer for projects, look for training opportunities, learn policy and become the person other staff seek out when they have questions or need an opinion.

 

Learn your boss’s job and align yourself for advancement; then be prepared when the opportunity presents itself.

 

Be ready to be uncomfortable; sometimes you’ll need to make tough, unpopular decisions.

 

Don’t be satisfied with satisfactory…strive for excellence.

 

Each day look for the people around you that could eventually replace you and help them along toward that end.

It’s called mentoring.

 

Give the people that work for you the latitude to make mistakes without fear of reprisal, most people learn from them. Correct in private and praise in public.

 

Micro-managing is counterproductive and will stifle creativity and the “outside the box” thinking we need from our staff.

 

Expect that occasional phone call from Deb Sahd saying the Secretary wants to see you.

 

Love your job, give it 110% every day and when you struggle to keep up the pace…step aside.

 

-John K. Murray
March 18, 2014

 

Note: Deputy Murray's last day with the DOC is March 28.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Governor's Circle - Leadership Level Givers

Recently employees at two state prisons -- SCIs Greene and Huntingdon -- received letters from Gov. Tom corbett thanking them for their contributions to the 2013 State Employees Combined Appeal (SECA) campaign.  Each one gave an hour or more of pay per month to charities participating in SECA.

Huntingdon's employees were highlighted on this page earlier, but here are the Greene employees...

(Please check back for the photo -- our system isn't working properly at this time.)

Pictured are: Lisa Anderson, Michelle Baker and Seth Erickson.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Throwback Thursday ... Baseball behind the walls of Graterford

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Shout-out from a Training Participant

"I finished your two-week DOC training in Elizabethtown, Pa.  It was hard for me at first and easier for others.  I had to drive five hours from Beaver County but we made it there in one piece.  I have been working in community corrections for 14 years at Penn Pavilion (a contracted community corrections center) and learned a lot in those 14 years.  But I really learned more from your sergeants and the PowerPoint slides and DVDs that they were teaching us from.  I'd like to give a special shout out to sergeants Hemminger, Kostelelac, Murray and Rodriguez.  I have to admit that during the first week of training my mind was in system overload.  All four sergeants clamed me down.  At the end of the second week I passed and the whole class gave me a standing ovation.  That will be something I will remember forever.  I normally don't sweat tests that much, but I did this time.  I know we are not allowed to send thank you cards or to correspond with the sergeants, but I would like to let you know that you have some fine staff working over there and I am using the skills they taught me at Penn Pavilion and am trying to be a mentor to two co-workers.  Thank you again for making this happen." -- Shift Manager Mark Williams, Penn Pavilion

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Virtual Visitation

Family and friends are the inmate’s connection to the community.  They offer information on the neighborhood, they give updates on family happenings and they keep the inmate up-to-date on changes that are occurring at home.   Many times it is a hardship to travel to the inmate so why not ‘virtually’ bring the inmate to the visitor.  The Department of Corrections does just that through virtual visitation.

 

In 2001, the DOC began offering Department of Corrections’ Family Virtual Visitation Pilot Program.  The pilot was funded through a federal grant awarded by Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. 

 

The pilot began in four locations -- SCI Cambridge Springs, SCI Coal Township, SCI Pine Grove and SCI Mahanoy.   The visits were arranged in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Prison Society.

 

The pilot was successfully received by inmates and their visitors and continues today.  Currently, the service is offered at eight SCIs -- Albion, Cambridge Springs, Coal Township, Dallas, Greene, Mahanoy, Muncy and Pine Grove.

 

There are three virtual visitation centers where a virtual visit can be initiated.  The sites are in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Erie and are scheduled through ScotlandYard who holds the contract to provide this service and schedules the family and friends for visits. 

 

The inmates work with the facility’s virtual visitation facility coordinator who provides a packet of information.  The relevant policy is provided which the inmate must agree to abide by.

 

As with a face-to-face visit, the visitor must be on the approved visitors’ list and provide two forms of identification at the time of the visit.   Each visit is 55 minutes in duration and costs only $20.

 

Ninety percent of the inmates will be rejoining their community.  It is important to maintain or reestablish the connection to their family or community support in order to facilitate reentry. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

SCI Camp Hill Staff Provides Insight to Students

 

SCI Camp Hill’s Capt. Eichenberg and Lieutenant Davy visited the River Rock Academy Campuses in Shiremanstown and Red Lion, Pa., as well as Central Penn College Harrisburg Campus in Summerdale, PA.

 

The director from River Rock Academy in Red Lion said, “Captain Eichenberg and Lieutenant Davy did an excellent job presenting. They kept our students actively engaged for an hour and 45 minutes. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the presentation that included an excellent power point which demonstrated a day in the life of a prisoner. We appreciate both for taking the time on their day off to travel to our campus and speak with our students. Thank you for supporting these presentations which have a positive impact on our students.”

 

A professor of Criminal Justice from Central Penn College said, “I want to thank the Department of Corrections and Captain Eichenberg and Lieutenant Davy for the presentation that they gave to our Introduction to Corrections class. I particularly appreciated the way that the presentation was customized for our students. The program gave a real perspective on a day in the life of a corrections officer and the potential for a meaningful career. Captain Eichenberg and Lieutenant Davy were engaging and kept the students interest throughout the presentation. Once again thank you for all of your assistance.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Appreciation from the Governor

 

The SCI Huntingdon staff was presented an appreciation letter from Governor Tom Corbett on March 7, 2014, thanking them for their exceptional support of the 2013 State Employees Combined Appeal (SECA) campaign. Their contributions placed them in the “Governor’s Circle” leadership level of employees who give the most – an hour or more of pay per month – to the charities participating in SECA.  Pictured are:  (front) Paula Price and Hannah Bingman; (back) Holly Pyle, Lt. Mike Gill and Heather Holder.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of March 10 Postings...

Community Outreach

This winter, SCI Graterford's Empowerment Committee selected two local organizations to assist by collecting items identified on the agencies' wish lists.

Manna on Main Street, a food pantry and soup kitchen located in Lansdale, Pa., serves the community by providing food, fulfilling social service needs and conducting community education.  The Good Samaritan Shelter provides transitional housing and supportive services to homeless men in their shelter in Phoenixville, Pa.

After the holiday seasons, both organizations begin to see their supplies diminish and donations dwindle.  Throughout December and January, Graterford employees focused efforts to collect items for these organizations and to deliver items in February.

A total of nine large boxes of canned goods, paper products and other essentials were collected and delivered.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of March 3 Postings...

A "New Leash on Life"

In February, DOC Secretary John Wetzel attended an event in Philadelphia to speak about the DOC’s plans for SCI Graterford’s New Leash on Life dog training program. Dogs in the program will be trained and later provided to veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who have PTSD.  Officials from SCI Graterford attended the event.  Here are some pictures.

 

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Important Partnership

The DOC is making a Sesame Street ® publication entitled Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration available its visiting rooms. The publication is designed to support, comfort and reduce anxiety, sadness and confusion that young children may experience during the incarceration of a parent.

The Sesame Street ® program is for children age three to eight and the book is bi-lingual, English on one side and Spanish on the other side; and it gives at-home caregivers tips and strategies to communicate with children about incarceration. The books, which are provided to the DOC at no charge, will be offered free in the family/inmate visiting rooms.

http://www.sesameworkshop.org/incarceration/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of Feb. 24 Postings...

K-9 Training Barn Expanded

(Feb. 27) -- For several years the DOC's Drug Interdiction Unit (DIU) has used one of the barns located off of Route 26 (on SCI Rockview's property) to train dogs. There is an area in the barn that has been renovated with training walls that are used to build scent association and teach the dogs to give a trained response to odors. The training area is now expanding and additional training walls are being installed along with mock cells and rows of lockers.

 

The work is being done by an inmate work detail under the watchful eye of the Armed Mounted Detail and SCI Rockview's  maintenance staff. Lumber from Rockview's saw mill and surplus materials are also being used to keep costs at a minimum.

 

Once completed, the “K-9 Training Barn” will be transformed into a state-of-the-art training facility that will enhance the department's training abilities and proficiency of the DIU detection canines.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Shoe Drive Benefits Soles4Souls

SCI Cambridge Springs Officers Shank and Mayo and Correctional Industries Supervisor Mr. Rentz organized a shoe drive to benefit Soles4Souls.  The drive kicked off on Monday, January 27th and concluded on Friday, February 21st.

 

Founded in 2004, Soles4Souls is a global non-profit organizatoin dedicated to fighting the devastating impact and perpetuation of poverty. Through the distribution of shoes and clothing, the organization advances its anti-poverty mission by collecting new and used shoes and clothes from individuals, schools, faith-based institutions, civic organizations and corporate partners. They then distribute those shoes and clothes both via direct donations to people in need and by provisioning qualified micro-enterprise programs designed to create jobs in poor and disadvantaged communities. Based in Nashville, Tenn, Soles4Souls is committed to the highest standards of operating and governance, and holds a Four-Star rating with Charity Navigator.

 

On behalf of The PRIDE Motorcycle Club, Mr. Rentz and Officers Shank and Mayo thank everyone who donated their new and used shoes to the 2014 Soles4Souls shoe drive. This year there was an overwhelming amount of support from the employees at SCI Cambridge Springs.  The original goal was to exceed last year’s donation of 45 pairs of shoes, which was far surpassed with a total of 200 pairs of shoes.

 

The shoes were dropped off to Meeker Marshall for the Soles4Souls shoe drive. In turn, Meeker Marshall gave a $5 gift certificate per each pair donated. They combined the amount and gave one hundred $10 gift certificates. Fifty certificates were given to the Soldiers & Sailors Home in Erie, and 50 certificates were given to the Liberty House in Erie.  (Liberty House is a homeless shelter for veterans).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Responds to
US Department of Justice Findings Following
Review of Mental Health Services
System-wide improvements, enhanced services began in 2011; Additional reforms continue

(Feb. 24) – Today, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division issued the findings of its investigation of the Pennsylvania prison system’s mental health services for seriously mentally ill inmates. The statewide investigation began on May 31, 2013, and stemmed from the U.S. DOJ’s investigation of mental health services at SCI Cresson. SCI Cresson closed on June 30, 2013.

Since the U.S. DOJ announced its original investigation of SCI Cresson in December 2011, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel has emphasized that, “The DOC and the U.S. DOJ are working toward the same goal – appropriate delivery of mental health services.”

The report represents only the U.S. DOJ’s conclusions and pertains to the period spanning from January 2012 through June 2013. U.S. DOJ and DOC will mutually discuss the U.S. DOJ’s findings in coming weeks.

“Because the report focuses on data gathered from January 2012 through June 2013, it does not reflect the reality of how the Pennsylvania prison system currently operates or provides services to inmates,” Wetzel said. “It also is not representative of the services and work that the DOC’s dedicated mental health and correctional staff provides.”

Since 2011, one of the priorities of DOC has been to enhance treatment for mentally ill offenders. The growth of inmate populations with mental illness has been a tremendous challenge for prison systems across the country.

Prior to the U.S. DOJ’s expanded investigation, the DOC had already begun significant improvements in the area of enhancing services for mentally ill offenders. Pennsylvania’s DOC has worked diligently to develop and implement these transformative initiatives to provide effective programs and enhanced services for the mentally ill. Many of these programs are innovations that the DOC was the first to develop and implement and they have had tremendous results:

o Solitary Confinement for SMI Offenders

§ The development of new treatment units and implementation of more robust misconduct diversionary procedures for inmates with SMI has resulted in a steep decline in the number of inmates with SMI who are currently housed in restricted units for disciplinary reasons. Currently, less than 150 inmates who are diagnosed as SMI are housed in restrictive housing units, down from nearly 850 inmates previously.

o Vera Segregation Reduction Project

§ The DOC has partnered with the nationally recognized Vera Institute of Justice. Vera’s Segregation Reduction Project will examine the DOC’s use of segregation for the overall inmate population and develop strategies to safely reduce the use of costly segregation through training, policy modifications and other initiatives.

o Enhanced Classification and Treatment for Seriously Mentally Ill Offenders

§ The DOC has updated its definition of Serious Mental Illness (SMI) to better capture and track those individuals who suffer from the most severe forms of mental illness, requiring the most treatment services. Because the new definition is diagnosis driven, it better identifies individuals in need of services and ensures that they are connected to needed resources. For those inmates who require intensive treatment, a recovery model individual treatment plan is generated – with the inmate’s participation – to identify and isolate certain treatment goals that the inmate and treatment team will strive to meet together.

o Certified Peer Support Specialist Program

§ DOC’s certified peer support specialist program has trained over 300 inmates to provide support and counseling services to other inmates on a variety of issues, including participation in mental health treatment.

o Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training

§ CIT training, first used to educate police officers to respond mental health issues that they encounter in the community, has been modified by the DOC into an extensive multi-day training course to provide our correctional officers with an understanding of the ways in which mental illness may affect the inmates they deal with daily, and provide them with skills to deescalate crisis situations. Trainings occur several times per year and classes typically include dozens of officers and corrections personnel. Those officers whose position within institutions put them in close contact with the mentally ill have been prioritized for this critical training. The DOC is planning to offer this training to the Pennsylvania county prisons in the future.

o Mental Health First Aid Training

§ The DOC will train all employees in mental health first aid by the end of fiscal year 2014. The training equips employees to understand, recognize and respond to the symptoms of mental illness.

o Improved Treatment Units

§ The DOC developed several new specialized units to address the different treatment needs of inmates with SMI, including Secure Residential Treatment Units, Residential Treatment Units and Short Term Residential Treatment Units. The variety of treatment units ensures that inmates are receiving individualized care specific to their particular needs regardless of their security level. Additionally, inmates in specialized units receive – at a minimum, and often far in excess of – 20 hours of structured and unstructured programs out of their cells each week; for those inmates in general population, treatment units have even greater out-of-cell program opportunities.

o MHM performance contracting

§ The contract with MHM Services for inmate mental health care, includes performance-based incentives and penalties. The contract provides incentives for positive outcomes for offenders to further the DOC’s goal that inmates leaving the system are better than when they entered it. The contract incentivizes treatment that reduces misconduct and mental health recommitment rates for the mentally ill. Additionally, MHM will be required to maintain or exceed an established baseline medication compliance rate.

o Partnering with NAMI, Rutgers, etc.

§ The DOC has partnered with various advocacy groups and leading researchers in the field of mental illness to analyze current systems and develop initiatives to improve mental health care. Partners include the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and Rutgers University.

o Development of Suicide Prevention Committees

§ Each state correctional institution has instituted a Suicide Prevention Committee, which includes a multi-disciplinary team of mental health and security personnel, to review serious incidents of self-harm, attempted and completed suicides. These committees will monitor policy compliance, conduct training exercises and make recommendations for improvements to policy and procedure.

o Trauma Screening
§ All female inmates received at SCI Muncy will undergo a thorough trauma screening upon their reception to the institution and be connected with appropriate follow-up services.

LETTER OF FINDINGS -- Investigation of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections' Use of Solitary Confinement on Prisoners with Serious Mental Illness and/or Intellectural Disabilities

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

DOC to Pilot Inmates' Use of Tablets

Remember when a tablet was defined as a number of sheets of paper fastened together at edge generally used for taking notes or writing letters?  Now if you google the word “tablet” you find any number of electronic devices capable of a multitude of tasks.  Many citizens use tablets in everyday life, and soon PA DOC inmates will have the opportunity to purchase and use tablets as well. 

 

The radio has been a means of receiving information for many inmates.  However, radios have many parts and pieces which can provide material for weapons and a place to conceal contraband.

 

To alleviate these issues, the DOC will be piloting a program at two state prisons utilizing the electronic tablets to provide the inmates with music, e-mail capability, inmate account look-up and commissary ordering. 

 

The inmates will have the opportunity, at their own expense, to purchase the tablet in the commissary.  In order to have access to music or e-mails, they will set up an account.  The inmates will have access to a kiosk on the housing unit where they will connect their tablet to make their selections.

 

One of the advantages of technology is the capability to limit what is and isn’t available on a device.  The tablets will provide the inmates with a wide range of music, but the DOC will have the ability to approve what is on the list of songs the inmates can purchase and download to the tablet. 

 

Also, when they are connected at the kiosk, inmates can receive any new e-mails and also respond to those e-mails they received.  Just like answering a hand-written letter, the inmate will be able to send an e-mail to family and friends.  The inmate only will be able to respond to e-mails from those individuals who have previously e-mailed them.  They won’t be able to initiate new e-mails to someone who has not contacted the inmate previously.  The e-mails will be scanned with an automated system for words and phrases set by the DOC as concerning. In those cases, the prison’s security office staff would review the e-mail and determine whether delivery of the e-mail to the inmate was in accordance with security policy and procedures.

 

Following the pilot program, DOC officials will review the results of the pilot.  DOC officials then will fine tune the policy governing the use of such tablets throughout the DOC, educate inmates and staff about their availability and use and enter into a contract with a vendor to provide the services.  At no time will taxpayer money be spent on this.

 

Other state DOCs that presently use tablets or similar devices include Arkansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nebraska and Virginia.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of Feb. 17 Postings...

Stanton Named DOC HR Director

Effective Feb. 16, Ty Stanton has been named director of the Department of Corrections’ Bureau of Human Resources. 

 

Having earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental health and safety management from Slippery Rock University, Stanton began his corrections career as a human resource management trainee in July 1999, having completed rotations with the Office of Administration and the Departments of Corrections and Labor & Industry.  In July 2000, he worked in the DOC’s Benefits Division as a human resource analyst 1.  He was promoted through the ranks of human resource analysts over the next seven years, having progressively responsible duties ranging from coordinating training programs for employees, administering the employee drug and alcohol testing and workplace violence programs to representing the DOC at a variety of labor relations functions, meetings, hearings and negotiations.  In April 2007, Stanton was named chief of the DOC’s Labor Relations Division, where he was responsible for the overall planning, organizing and directing of DOC labor relations program.

 

Prior to joining the DOC, Stanton served as a health and safety consultant for a Mechanicsburg company, as a field auditor for a gas company in Pittsburgh and owned/operated a deli in Maine for three years.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of Feb. 10 Postings...

Assisting a Sister-DOC

Pennsylvania DOC's Captain D. Scott VanGorder -- head of the DOC's Drug Interdiction Unit/K-9 Academy -- recently spent two weeks in California assisting the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in the training of a passive response drug detection class.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

NCIA Marketing and Sales Person of the Year

Recently, the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) selected PA DOC's Correctional Industries Sales and Marketing Representative Stephen Allen as the 2014 Marketing and Sales Person of the Year.  He was chosen by a panel of industry professionals and the NCIA Board from a very talented and accomplished group of nominees from across the United States.  The award will be formally presented at the NCIA conference in April.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Corrections U.S.A. - Medal of Valor Recipient

 

On Feb. 11, officials from Corrections U.S.A. announced recipients of a variety of corrections-related awards. One of the recipients of the "2014 Corrections USA Medal of Valor" is SCI Mahanoy Corrections Officer Donald Rakus.

 

According to Corrections U.S.A.:

On Friday September 13, 2013, at SCI Mahanoy, Officer Donald Rakus was performing the yearly tasks of physical fitness tests (PFT's) for the special teams CERT (Corrections Emergency Response Teams). Sergeant Daniel Ozlawski became non responsive. Fellow team members started calling for help. Officer Rakus immediately evaluated Sgt. Ozlawski discovering he wasn't breathing and had no pulse. Officer Rakus responded without hesitation. Officer Rakus began lifesaving CPR lasting 15 minutes until medical help arrived. Due to his professional response and training, Sgt. Ozlawski's life was saved.  Officer Donald Rakus is both a Hero and a Correctional Officer. SCI Mahanoy Frackville, PA --Schuylkill County

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

DOC Transportation Hub Relocating

 

Effective Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, SCI Benner Township (located in Centre County) will begin serving as the central transportation hub for the Department of Corrections. Previously, SCI Smithfield served as the transportation hub. As inmates need to be moved from one state prison to another, a large number of these transports from one end of the state to another, were coordinated through Smithfield. Now, such transports will be coordinated through Benner Township, which is more centrally located. DOC officials wish to thank the administration and employees at SCI Smithfield for their work in this area.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Corrections Department Reports Slowest Growth Under Corbett Administration

(Feb. 10) -- A review of the Department of Corrections’ inmate population growth by gubernatorial administration shows the smallest increase under the Corbett Administration.

For each administration the growth rate increased. While the increase continues under Gov. Corbett, it is the smallest increase since the Shapp Administration.

“This is the smallest increase for the 24 years preceding this administration,” Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said. “During previous administrations, the growth averaged 1,500 inmates per year.”

"We came here with a vision for corrections in Pennsylvania – not just to reform the prison system, but to transform how we respond to crime. This slowest growth in the population signals a great first step for our vision,” Gov. Tom Corbett said.

“Our goal for our entire corrections system is to ensure a safer Pennsylvania both today and tomorrow. Today, by the way we operate our correctional facilities and oversee offenders in the community; and tomorrow, by reducing the future criminality of those who come through our system,” Corbett said.

Upon taking office, Wetzel said that the governor set his sights on reducing corrections spending and reinvesting those funds into strategies, programs and services that make Pennsylvania’s communities safer.

“Previously, Pennsylvania had been experiencing a rapid acceleration of its state prison population for several decades,” Wetzel said.  “In fact, the DOC’s population climbed steadily to a point where it looked as though Pennsylvania was going to have to build one new state prison each year just to keep up with the growth.”

“Initially, we began this administration focused on improving internal processes and improving efficiency. Then, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative passed in 2012, which began to shift policy,” Wetzel said.

Wetzel said the DOC experienced a big drop in 2012.  In 2013, a slight increase was experienced.  While the increase was less than the drop in 2013, it was attributable to changes made to the community corrections system and to focusing on improving outcomes in that system.

“All of this leads us to being very optimistic that we are well on our way to a significant population reduction,” Wetzel said.

“Instead of an early projected population growth of more than 3,500 inmates, the DOC only has experienced a growth of a total of 191 inmates between January 2011 and December 2013,” Wetzel said.

“Along with changes implemented thanks to the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, fewer court commitments combined with policy changes that enable Pennsylvania to both reduce spending and increase public safety are continuing to take shape, Wetzel added.

“This is an exciting time in Pennsylvania’s corrections history,” Wetzel said.  “We look forward to continuing our work in this area and through providing evidence-based programs that work to change offenders from being tax burdens into law-abiding tax payers.”

The attached chart, provided by the DOC, shows the average annual inmate population increase/decrease by administration.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Culinary Program Graduation

Recently, the DOC's Training Academy held a graduation ceremony for seven inmates who recently completed a nine-week Culinary Arts program.  The inmate graduates received their national ServSafe certification.  Guest speaker at the graduation was Rebecca Frank, human resource manager for Harristown Enterprises, Inc. - an organization that represents the revitalization of Harrisburg and that has vested interests in the Harrisburg Hilton, Bricco, Harrisburg Property Services, the Central Penn Conference Center and the Hilton Garden Inn at Hershey.  Her speech was inspirational, uplifting and encouraging, centering on overcoming adversity.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wernersville CCC and Habitat for Humanity

Residents continue working with Habitat for Humanity of Berks County on two projects in Reading.  One on South 7th Street and another on Perkiomen Avenue, where they will do dry walling and finishing. At the Perkiomen Avenue site, resients did some final painting and cleanup work.

They also will be heavily involved in an upcoming project -- a first of its kind in the Reading area where Habitat will be doing what they call "a cluster build."  The project will assist the City of Reading and the Reading Redevelopment Authority to revitalize neighborhoods and strengthen communities.  Four houses will be renovated over a 16-month period. Wernersville residents will help them with much of the demolition and renovation as needed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of Feb. 3 Postings...

Muncy Gets a New Superintendent

(Feb. 7) -- Robert L. Smith, a 23-year corrections veteran, has been appointed superintendent at the State Correctional Institution Muncy effective January 16, 2014, Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel announced.

“Robert’s experience as an officer and his various managerial roles have provided him with a wealth of knowledge that will continue the safe and successful operation of SCI Muncy,” said Secretary Wetzel.

Smith began his corrections career as a corrections officer at SCI Dallas in 1990 and transferred to SCI Coal Township in 1993.  He was promoted to sergeant in 1994.  Remaining at SCI Coal Township, Smith was promoted to lieutenant in 1996 and to captain in 2000.  He then became a unit manager in 2005.

Smith transferred to SCI Muncy as major of the guard in 2007.  He was promoted to deputy superintendent for facilities management in 2008.

Smith is a veteran of the United States Air Force serving from 1985 until 1989.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Graduation Held

Last week, 14 inmates at SCI Mercer graduated from the DOC's Certified Peer Support Specialist (CPS) program.  The inmates completed a two-week, 80-hour training.  The inmates had to meet specific criteria, including having had mental health treatment at some point in their lives.  Now that they are certified, they may be hired to work in various areas of the prison, assisting individuals with mental health issues and providing support to those inmates.  Also, these inmates must complete 18 continuing education units each year to maintain their certification. 

Upon receiving his certificate, one inmate graduate shared the following poem: 

The Man in the Glass

 

When you get what you want in your struggle for self and the world makes you king for a day…

That’s when you go to the glass and you look at yourself to see what the man has to say…

Although it is not your successors or friends whose judgment upon you must pass…

The one whose verdict counts most in the end is the man looking back from the glass.

Each graduate expressed his gratitude for being selected to be a part of the Certified Peer Support Specialist program, as well as being anxious to begin helping others in his new role.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of Jan. 13 Postings...

New Chief of Clinical Services

 

Earlier this week Dr. Paul Noel was named the DOC’s new chief of clinical services within the Bureau of Health Care Services.  Dr. Noel earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado; an MD from Autonomous University of Guadalajara, Mexico; and an MBA from Liberty University, Virginia.

 

After graduation from family practice residency in 1986, he worked part time for SCI Greensburg.  In 1994, he became the medical director at SCI Pittsburgh.  During his career, he has also been medical director at SCI Somerset and SCI Greensburg.  In 2005, he was named as the state medical director with our former health care vendors: PHS, Corizon and then Wexford.

 

Dr. Noel replaces Dr. Nicholas Scharff, who retired in December after 10 years of service.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Week of Jan. 6 Postings...

PA Department of Corrections Found To Be in Compliance with Inmate Civil Rights Following SCI Pittsburgh Review 

Harrisburg - (Jan. 8) The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced that it has completed its investigation of alleged abuse at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh concluding there is insufficient evidence of any civil rights violations.

“The staff and leadership at SCI Pittsburgh, under the leadership of Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, have been innovative and comprehensive in addressing the issues that were identified in the review,” Governor Tom Corbett said.  “This is consistent with our mission upon taking office to make Pennsylvania’s correction systems safe, secure, effective and efficient for our employees and inmates.”

In a letter to Corbett today, the DOJ released its findings of investigation and commended the department for thoroughly addressing the issues.

“We are pleased to report that the Department of Corrections has used the months since we opened our investigation to reform its policies and practices,” the Department of Justice wrote.  “Importantly, the reforms are already translating into safer prison conditions at the Pittsburgh prison and throughout the Pennsylvania prison system.

“In view of the significant reforms that have been developed in recent months - a number of which have already been implemented - we have decided to close our investigation. We greatly appreciate the cooperation of Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel and his staff have provided us throughout our investigation.”

“This is a testament to the hard work, dedication and commitment of the staff at SCI Pittsburgh,” Wetzel said.  “In the face of adversity, they responded with the type of resolve that is representative of our organization.”

To read the entire letter issued today by the DOJ, click HERE.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mail for Heroes

During the recent holiday season, SCI Graterford employees, looking for a new way to share the spirit of giving, sent messages of thanks and holiday cheer to military personnel.  More than 200 cards were signed and sent to soldiers through a program operated out of Maryland.  Everyone hopes that the small gestures brought smiles to the faces of soldiers who couldn't be at home during the holidays.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Harrisburg CCC Residents Gave Back to the Community in 2013

The residents of the Harrisburg Community Corrections Center gave back to the community in a BIG way in 2013.  They donated 33,918 items to local non-profit organizations.  Here are the details...

 

January 2013

Coupons for Support Our Troops

6392 Coupons

February 2013

Box Tops for Education for Camp Curtin Elementary School

1501 Box Tops for Education

March 2013

Easter Basket Supplies for Homeland Center Assisted Living Center

2617 Easter Basket Supplies

April 2013

Soda Can Tabs for Ronald McDonald House

11,929 Soda Can Tabs

May 2013

Seed Packets for Green Urban Initiative

877 Seed Packets

June 2013

Personal Hygiene Items for Bethesda Mission

2090 Personal Hygiene Items

July 2013

Pairs of Socks for Shining Light Thrift Shop

659 Pairs of Socks

August 2013

Art Supplies for Jump Street

1190 Art Supplies

September 2013

School Supplies for the Scott Elementary School

1314 School Supplies

October 2013

Halloween Candy for Halloween Buckets for Gaudenzia Chambers Hill Adolescent Program

3170 Halloween Candies

November 2013

Non-perishable Food Items for Central PA Food Bank

1424 Food Items

December 2013

755 Pet Items for Harrisburg Humane Society

755 Pet Items

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thanks from the Northwestern Food Pantry in Albion, Pa.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Allentown CCC Residents Collect Coats

Residents of the Allentown Community Corrections Center recently held a hat/scarf/glove drive for needy children in the Lehigh Valley area.  The turnout was more than expected.  In all, 69 hats, 127 pairs of gloves, 9 scarfs, two pairs of socks and one winter coat were collected.  Also, an additional $100 worth of children's toys were donated.  All of the items were donated to the 6th Street Shelter Program for women and children.  In January, the center will collect pet food and supplies to donate to the local ASPCA.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Allentown CCC Residents Collect Toys for Tots

In November, residents of the Allentown CCC held a "Toys for Tots" drive with more than 50 toys collected.  Among the toys were sports items, dolls, action figures, stuffed animals and costume jewelry.  The center will host more drives in the upcoming months to benefit the Lehigh Valley.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From the Council of State Governments Justice Center...

Pennsylvania Improves Community Corrections, Aims to Reduce Recidivism

(Jan. 7) -- By Patrick Armstrong, Policy Analyst, State Initiatives

On December 2, 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (PBPP) began offering a range of new reentry services to people on parole in the Commonwealth to help them succeed when returning to the community after incarceration. And thanks to partnerships with providers across Pennsylvania, the new services will soon be available in 91 different locations around the state.

The new services are the result of months of hard work by DOC and PBPP staff to overhaul their community corrections system, an effort prompted by an internal assessment in February of 2013 that revealed that some of the community-based services being provided were not only failing to reduce recidivism, but in some cases were actually increasing the likelihood of rearrest and reincarceration.[1] The internal review showed that despite an annual DOC investment of $100 million in residential reentry services, the state’s overall recidivism rate of 60 percent indicated that these services were not having the desired impact.

The internal assessment’s findings prompted state officials to restructure DOC and PBPP programs using research on what works to reduce recidivism. For example, the DOC will no longer invest only in residential services, but will instead offer a continuum of services focused on addressing individuals’ risk factors.

“We are excited that our parole agents will now have an expanded set of tools to ensure people under supervision have the best chance to be successful when they return home,” said Chairman of the PBPP Michael Potteiger.

DOC Secretary John Wetzel has been adamant about ensuring that the new programs reduce recidivism.

“Citizens of the Commonwealth should have every expectation of a corrections system that actually helps people correct themselves,” Secretary Wetzel said. “Changes [to our system] are expected to significantly improve public safety, reduce recidivism, and lower corrections costs for the citizens of the Commonwealth in the years to come.”[2]

In 2012, Governor Tom Corbett signed into law justice reinvestment legislation (Act 122), which focuses on improving supervision and increasing accountability and aims to generate savings for reinvestment into smarter corrections practices. The recent expansion of services for people on parole is an important step in achieving a key objective of Act 122—reducing recidivism.


[1] Kristofer B. Bucklen, et al., Recidivism Report 2013 (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 2013), available at http://ccjs.umd.edu/sites/ccjs.umd.edu/files/PA%20DOC%20Recidivism%20Report%20final_0.pdf.

[2] Ibid.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Coal Township Selects Employee of the Quarter

SCI Coal Township congratulates Corrections Food Service Instructor Steven Gregory on his nomination and selection as Employee of the Quarter. 

 

Gregory was nominated by his coworkers for his dedication to SCI Coal Township.  Gregory, who volunteers locally as a fire fighter, is also a member of the FERT team.  He volunteers to work many special functions and recently trained in a supervisor position.  Steve is detail oriented and a conscientious employee who is an asset to the Food Service Department.

 

Please congratulate Mr. Gregory on his selection as Employee of the Quarter.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Psychology Office

Announced on Jan. 6, 2014, the DOC has established a Psychology Office to provide oversight for mental health and psychiatric services.  Dr. Robert Marsh, chief of Psychological Services, is responsible for leading and managing this office.  This organizational change separates psychology and psychiatry services from the DOC's Bureau of Health Care Services, although both offices will continue to work closely together. 

The chief of psychiatry reports directly to Dr. Marsh, who reports directly to the executive deputy secretary.  Dr. Marsh also supervises the DOC's mental health program manager and four regional licensed psychologist managers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eastern Regional Empowerment Symposium

 

 

In December, SCI Retreat hosted the Eastern Regional Empowerment Symposium along with SCIs Dallas and Waymart.  SCI Retreat Superintendent Theresa DelBalso welcomed the 70 corrections employees and guests to the day-long event.  Deputy Secretary for the Eastern Region Michael Klopotoski welcomed everyone on behalf of the Statewide Empowerment Committee. 

 

Pennsylvania State Police Sergeant Philip Duffy’s topic was on Body Language.  He showed employees how they can tell if the person they are talking to is angry or ignoring what is being said.  He also discussed the difference between interrogation and interviewing where with the later, the person asking the question already knows the answers, and an interview is where questions being asked and the answers are unknown to the questioner.

 

SCI Chester Superintendent John C. Thomas spoke about motivation and how it relates to employees in the correctional setting.  He gave the group a behavioral survey of what would be acceptable or unacceptable as a commonwealth employee, with no wrong or right answers.  He also provided a handout called “Taking the Initiative,” and at the end of it was an agreement form to fill out to take the initiative on any opportunities or problems that employees have knowledge of.  He also presented a poem “The Cold Within” that taught employees that sharing was the right way to go in life.

 

SCI Retreat Lieutenant Thomas Serbin spoke about his vast knowledge of security threat groups (STGs) and how they are running rampant in prison and on the street, but that with knowledge of their signs, lingo and ways, employees can be more aware to safeguard themselves and their families.  Lt. Serbin’s program was so interesting that one of the comments the committee received was, “They could have listened to him speak all day!”

 

SCI Dallas Sergeant Richard Blaine and CO1 John Wildes demonstrated self-defense tactics and showed the group the strongest parts of bodies to use to guard and protect themselves if attacked.  Officers Blaine and Wildes conduct a personal safety awareness class at SCI Dallas that SCI Retreat employees said they would be interested in having offered at SCI Retreat.

The SCI Retreat Empowerment Committee is co-chaired by Superintendent DelBalso and Deputy Secretary for Centralized Services Kathy Brittain.  Committee members are pictured are: Terry Zagrosky, drug and alcohol treatment specialist; Susan Worth, clerk typist; Jeff Dengler, drug and alcohol treatment specialist supervisor; Gail Klusmeyer, clerk typist; and Vicky Leffler, unit manager. Absent from the picture: Superintendent DelBalso, Lynn Nesbitt, treatment specialist and mentoring chairperson; and Deputy Superintendent Brittain.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

2013 news can be found at the left under the "2013 Articles" tab.