The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

April 30, 2013

Abuse-prevention experts gather

JOHNSTOWN — The Jerry Sandusky scandal cast a shadow over Pennsylvania last year. But Jackie Bernard, Blair County chief deputy district attorney, said the case can shed light on ways to better protect children for generations to come.

“Child abuse has always been something people didn’t want to talk about – even think about. But because of the Jerry Sandusky trial – and the strength his victims showed stepping forward – it’s a topic of discussion now,” Bernard said Tuesday at the 33rd annual Cambria County Child Abuse Prevention Workshop at Pitt-Johnstown’s Richland Township campus.

“People are more aware of child abuse,” she said. “And they’re more aware of the challenges prosecuting these cases.”

Bernard was part of an 11-member statewide task force picked last year to recommend how the state can better protect young abuse victims and properly punish those who prey on them.

In the wake of several high profile abuse scandals in the state, the timing was right, she said, referring to Sandusky and a separate, lengthy investigation into the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  

“These were (cases) where there were numerous instances of abuse ... and other people knew about it – or should have known,” Bernard said.

The state task force issued a 400-page report, urging for a culture change in how allegations are perceived, reported and handled.

Proposed changes include:

• Expanding the definition of “mandatory reporting” to require people in academic settings to alert authorities – not just supervisors – about suspected wrongdoings.

• Increasing penalties against those who don’t.

• Expanding the legal definition of what is considered child abuse.

• Increasing penalties for those who assault young children.

• Modifying the sentencing structure for those guilty of sharing graphic images or videos of child porn.

Efforts are intended to make the public  more alert to child abuse.

“People imagine a child abuser and they picture a monster,” Bernard said, observing that Sandusky’s reputation as a Penn State football coach and nonprofit founder challenged the stereotype.

“It can be anyone. A volunteer coach, a community leader, a local pastor. It can be a father, a neighbor ... or a friendly face.”

Bernard said Pennsylvania hasn’t given a significant overhaul to sex abuse guidelines and penalties since the late 1990s, but lawmakers have quickly acted on many of the task force’s recommendations, aiming to make many of them laws.

It takes a cooperative effort, one that extends beyond law enforcement to children and youth services, health care providers and numerous other groups statewide, Cambria Children & Youth administrator Betzi White said.

“We have to work hand-in-hand,” White said.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

  • Homicides linked to center

    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.

    April 19, 2014

  • bachota Volunteers helping to spruce up community

    Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
    The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • alanna Hartzok targets income disparity

    Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
    The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Schools rise to leadership challenge

    Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.

    April 19, 2014

  • KATEY LADIKA Student’s photos win awards

    A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Music to my ears

    Seldom has $15 produced such a high level of entertainment as it did a few weeks ago when I found myself in the second row just left of center keeping back the tears once again during my third live performance of “Les Miserables.”

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Bye, bye, Easter birdies

    Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Travelogue of terror features Johnstown area

    A historic week will surround the venerable Silver Drive-In come the beginning of May.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads