Awards honor and recognize county jail, juvenile detention center, alternative programs, and criminal justice advisory committee best practices offering exceptional programming

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) recently bestowed honors upon a Pennsylvania county jail, a juvenile detention center, and an alternative program, along with leaders from each who oversee their operations. The awards are presented to county criminal and juvenile justice entities who have implemented best practices and exemplary programming. CCAP also presented its Partner Award.

Carbon County received a Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century Jail Best Practices Award for 2016 in the small county category for its Carbon County Jail Community Treatment program. The county was experiencing increasing volume of inmates with substance abuse problems. Due to addictions, many of these inmates continue to commit crimes to fund addictions. The county placed a master’s level therapist at the jail on a full time basis, to provide assessments and extensive treatment. The approach is to provide uninterrupted drug and alcohol treatment services between the jail and the community upon release. This continuity has resulted in a reduction in return to jail for many of the same inmates.

CCAP also awarded the Juvenile Alternative Program Best Practices Award to Lancaster County Youth Intervention Center for their P.U.L.S.E. program, Providing Uplifting Learning Skills to Excel. Prior to the development of the P.U.L.S.E. Weekend Program, there were no other programs that were designed to address the youth’s criminogenic needs with evidence based practices on a weekend basis. The mission of the P.U.L.S.E Weekend Program is to provide short-term, research/evidence-based treatment heavily reliant on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing to male youth in Lancaster County. P.U.L.S.E. Weekend Program participants receive treatment on a weekend-long basis for five consecutive weekends to foster repairing harm to victims, restore the health and welfare of communities, and enable juveniles to become productive and law-abiding members of their communities, consistent with the Balanced and Restorative Justice principles already in existence.

In the Juvenile Detention Best Practices category, CCAP selected Central Counties Youth Center as the winner for its Summer Language Arts Program. The Central Counties staff have found that lack of reading skills is a problem faced by many of the youth placed in their care. Further, placement in detention interrupts the education process, and begs the need for year-round programming for youth in care. The Summer Reading Arts Program continues a 10 week program through late August to maintain the continuity of education, and offers more intense focus while school is not in session, resulting in enhanced skills achievement.

CCAP also presented its 21st Century Committee Criminal Justice Partners Award to Michael Boughton, program manager of the Lycoming County Reentry Services Center. Since its inception in September 2014, the program has shown steady growth in both numbers of participants served in the traditional program and in providing electronic monitoring services. In a short time, major progress is shown in addressing GED preparation, job readiness, anger management, parenting, pretreatment, life skills, moral reconation therapy, cognitive behavioral interventions for substance-abuse and an after care component. With overcrowding issues facing the county prison, these efforts have provided effective diversion of medium level-medium risk offenders from the county prison and provided them the opportunity to gain necessary skills and programming.

CCAP also presented the award for County Criminal Justice Advisory Boards (CJAB) Best Practices to McKean County CJAB for consistent operational standards for effective local criminal justice planning. Centre County was selected for an honorable mention for it efforts.

A formal awards presentation is planned for June 20 in State College.

Each entrant was required to describe how its county project maintains best practices for keeping populations down, assuring better recidivism rates, improving collaboration with the community and assisting inmates with their re-entry to society. Juvenile detention and alternative program awards are designed to showcase the efforts of the men and women working each day to change the life of a child.

According to Jeff Snyder, Clinton County commissioner and chair of the CCAP Committee on County Criminal Justice System Best Practices for the 21st Century who administers the awards for CCAP, “These awards play a valuable role in promoting best practices of county jails and juvenile detention centers and in helping the counties to find alternatives to the costly solutions of building new jails. We salute the efforts of these counties in being innovative pioneers in meeting the challenges facing all county jails and juvenile justice providers as costs increase. We hope other counties will follow these examples and bring these solutions or others to their counties.”

Snyder said CCAP undertook a Pennsylvania Prison Overcrowding Project in 2001 in response to concerns raised by its Courts and Corrections Committee about jail crowding and construction costs. CCAP reconvened its Prison Overcrowding Task Force and charged it to devise a strategy to assist in the alleviation of crowding problems and the costs associated with jail construction.

CCAP contracted with Dr. Alan Harland, professor in the Criminal Justice department of Temple University, to design and conduct a statewide survey of all county-operated prison facilities to document the extent and magnitude of the problem. In 2004, CCAP was awarded a grant from the National Institute of Justice to defray the cost of the work on the overcrowding project. Then U.S. Senator Arlen Specter made the grant available by virtue of a Congressionally Directed Award placed in the 2003 federal budget.

Visit the CCAP website at www.pacounities.org.