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Prison Ministry addresses board with re-entry program plan

Published December 17. 2009 05:00PM

A new faith-based program that would help Carbon County inmates prepare for when they are released from jail may become a reality.

During the monthly county prison board meeting, Steven Boyd of Yokefellow Prison Ministry, approached the board with a presentation on a basic re-entry program to help reduce inmates' chances of becoming repeat offenders.

Boyd talked about the benefits of the program and how it can help inmates, all at no cost to the county.

He showed officials how other county prisons, including Northampton, Lehigh, and Pike counties utilize this program to effectively help inmates by teaching needed skills and preparing them to return to jobs and families.

Under the re-entry program, which is "a Christian faith-based course of intensive instruction," Boyd said inmates who are eligible to complete the program are taught life skills such as parenting, finances, anger management, relationships and more, so that when they are released, they are prepared to deal with real life situations. The program also aims to help released inmates by assisting them in finding employment and housing.

To be eligible for the program, inmates must be Christian, not approved for work release or are completing a state prison term, approved for the program by the prison and the program leaders, exhibit a positive attitude, and more.

Boyd asked for the support of the prison board to begin a re-entry program like this in the Carbon County Correctional Facility in Nesquehoning, because it will help both inmates and the county over time.

The board discussed the matter and raised a few questions regarding the program and any unforeseen costs.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, who also sits on the prison board, commended Boyd for his desire to help others.

He then made a motion to endorse the Yokefellow Prison Ministry's re-entry program. The motion passed unanimously.

The first year of the program would be used to gather information and volunteers to organize classes. It will take some time before the re-entry program takes shape.

The Yokefellow Prison Ministry's mission is to help serve the religious needs of inmates at county correctional facilities by promoting positive living and helping them learn the skills needed to be able to re-enter into society.

In other matters, a new drug policy that was put into effect earlier this year is helping save the county some money on inmate medications.

Robert Crampsie, county controller and member of the prison board, announced that in October, the county's pharmacy bill was $3,496. The preceding 12-month average for medications was $5,073. This reflects a savings of $1,577 each month. Of that amount, the largest bill the county usually experienced was from psychotropic drugs. The monthly average for the last 12 months was $3,596. As of the end of October, the bill was $1,824.

The drug cost per inmate is also down $10.29; from $32.01 before the policy went into effect, to $21.72.

Crampsie said he feels the policy is working.

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