Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Foust declined to discuss the other alleged murders because the investigations are ongoing.
Other former residents have gotten into trouble with local law enforcement, too, according to the chief.
“It’s happened in the past,” Foust said. “We’ve arrested individuals from there. We’ve had past clients involved in serious incidents in the city.”
The police department also is called to the center when disturbances such as fights occur.
Because of those factors, along with it being difficult for residents to find jobs in the area, the chief feels downtown Johnstown is a poor choice for the center’s location.
“I don’t think it’s an asset to the community to have it downtown, but, obviously, that’s not my call,” Foust said.
Meanwhile, Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan feels there are positives and negatives to the facility.
“I have mixed feelings about the corrections center because it is a good program in the sense that people are coming out of state prison and they’re put there for six months to transition them back into the community, which I believe we need,” said Callihan.
“I think it would be worse to just open the door of the jail and let them go after years of being in jail without some kind of plan in place. But what we’re seeing is – because they’re there for six months, and they can earn home visits, or take their time out or get a job – a lot of them are moving their families here. They weren’t from here originally, but they’re moving their families here and they’re probably, some of them, renting and going to our schools.
“A lot of them have been successful, but we have a segment of those that go right back into (criminal activity) and now they’re ours and we’re stuck with what they’re doing here.”
The center’s most-recent official one-year recidivism rate was 18.2 percent, according to information provided by the Department of Corrections.
Overall, the 12-month rate for individuals who went to one of the state’s community facilities was 42 percent for 2010-2011 releases, compared with 32.7 percent for criminals paroled straight to the street, per the DOC’s 2013 Recidivism Report.
The six-month, one-year and three-year recidivism rates have always been higher for CCC residents than for straight-to-home parolees since 2005-06, the earliest years examined in the study.
“The higher recidivism rates of those who are paroled to a center do not necessarily indicate that the parolee’s chance of recidivating increases as a result of being sent to a center,” according to the report.
“It could indicate that close monitoring provided by the centers (and to some degree parole staff) help detect violating behaviors of parolees (criminal or otherwise) that would remain undetected if parolees did not live in centers.
“If this is true and centers essentially better detect violating behaviors and remove high-risk parolees from centers through arrests and reincarcerations, then we might expect that those parolees who are discharged from centers without recidivism have lower recidivism rates. Also, those who are successfully discharged from a center may benefit from the programs and treatments they receive while at the center.”
The state’s overall CCC recidivism rate has dropped since it was 30.3 percent in 2005-2006.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.