The United States has barely 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prison population. One in every 100 adults in our country is incarcerated. In Pennsylvania, 1 in every 28 adults either is under parole or probation supervision or is incarcerated.
Since its inception, CentrePeace has done its best to care for and assist in the rehabilitation of folks incarcerated at the Centre County Correctional Facility. For many of our initial years, it felt like we were rolling a boulder uphill. It seemed that few in the criminal justice community believed that change for the better in these individuals was possible. That was, until now.
We have a new warden in town, and his presence and experience have helped redefine “corrections” in Centre County. His name is Richard Smith and he was hired a few years ago to the post after having spent several decades in various leadership roles within the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Smith and his staff have exhibited a willingness to listen to and, in some instances, adopt new ideas about how to keep folks from re-offending.
To that end and to its credit, the Centre Region’s larger criminal justice community is, for the first time in its history (and under Smith’s leadership), in the midst of creating and implementing a comprehensive re-entry program for those individuals being released from our county jail, returning citizens as we like to call them. Smith has dedicated already scarce resources to this effort because he believes, like a growing percentage of our community, that change is possible. But it won’t happen by accident.
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The development and implementation of a comprehensive and successful re-entry program is taking the concerted efforts of many organizations within our community; some secular and some faith-based, some governmental and some nonprofit, all with one thread in common: the desire to come to the aid of those who are unable to help themselves. This effort will take time and will most likely go through several iterations. Throughout the next several months, the criminal justice community will continue to identify resources capable of providing job skills, conflict resolution, money management and relationship training.
We are blessed to live in an area where, by holding each other up when needed, everyone can be afforded an opportunity to make a better life for him or herself, regardless of the detours taken. Similarly, we have a criminal justice community that continues to work together to solve the problems placed at its doorstep. And what an honor it has been and continues to be for CentrePeace to play an integral role in that process.