The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 11, 2013

Day center passing muster

Hopefully, grads are on better path in life

The Tribune-Democrat

— As federal, state and county officials vow to taxpayers to cut out-of-control prison costs, more programs such as Cambria County’s Day Reporting Center must demonstrate success.

This week, officials and family gathered in Cambria Township for what was called a transition celebration as 27 former inmates graduated from the DRC program.

We wish the graduates job career success and, just as importantly, a remaining lifetime free of drug and alcohol abuse and crime. No one knows better than they of the challenges ahead. 

“The transition celebrations are rewarding events for probation officers, center staff, participants and their families, said John Hogan, acting program manager. “The clients who are graduating have worked hard to complete this program, and this is a major step toward becoming contributing community members.”

Ironically, it hasn’t been only the clients who have been under a microscope since the program opened 14 months ago. The day reporting center itself had a controversial start. It originally was to be housed in a building in Ebensburg purchased by the former board of commissioners.

Community concerns about increased crime problems were raised, and when the current board came into office, that building was sold and the center was put into a county-owned building once housing an agriculture extension office and next to the former Laurel Crest complex.

Apparently, that relieved much of the anxiety focused on the DRC  program.

BI Inc. contracts with the county to operate the facility and county residents run the center. 

The program is aimed at nonviolent offenders convicted of crimes such as DUI, drug violations and burglaries. County judges have rejected sentencing offenders of violent crimes, sex offenders and those who have committed serious property crimes.

Once accepted, offenders are required to report on a regular basis for treatment, training and ongoing testing for drug and alcohol use.

Officials say behavioral classes are designed to “confront thinking errors that prevent offenders from breaking the cycle of criminality.”

Participants work on communication skills, problem-solving, decision-making, anger management, conflict resolution and employment skills.

What happens to those who can’t cut it?

Removal from the program results in incarceration. A pretty good incentive to succeed.

“You now face a greater task ahead of you, Stacy Morris, reporting center director, told the graduates. “When you stumble, it’s part of the normal rhythm of life. But pick yourself up and keep going.”

Wise words for all of us to live by.

Estimates are that it costs county taxpayers $24 a day to keep a person in the day reporting center, $31 less than the $55 a day to house that person in the county prison. 

At most times, the center has about 75 participants.

It’s not hard to see the benefits of a day reporting center, not only for taxpayers, but for troubled individuals looking for a new and better direction in their lives.

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