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Pa. program designed to keep people out of jail

August 16, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series of stories about the Franklin County Day Reporting Center and those to whom it offers a second chance.

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Brian Cline has three primary reasons he doesn't want to go back to jail.

Their names are Kaleigh, Shayla and Leisha.

"I'm just ready to be a father figure for them," Cline said.

Cline walked out of the Franklin County Jail last week and into the county's Day Reporting Center (DRC), where he'll participate in several months of classes and substance-abuse monitoring. The Waynesboro, Pa., man says that in order to be successful, he'll need to avoid bars and his "old associates."

DRC Program Director Kim Eaton said jail counselors try to find offenders who have been through the criminal justice system several times. They identify inmates with multiple charges or a probation violation.

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"We also look for people who have drug and alcohol issues if that's related to their criminal history," Eaton said.

Cline will undergo his risk assessment Tuesday. Eaton explained that DRC staff members are looking to enroll higher-risk clients who will benefit from classes that allow them to earn early release from jail.

Cline must report to the Loudon Street facility six days a week for at least the first month. He's tried to coordinate his class schedule with his sister, a recovering heroin addict who has been in the DRC program for three months.

Cline, 24, has been in and out of jail since his first driving under the influence arrest three weeks before his 21st birthday. His latest five-month stint stemmed from a probation violation after smoking marijuana and not reporting to his probation officer.

DRC clients undergo a Breathalyzer test every day they check into the center. They must submit urine for random testing when asked.

Starting "moral recognition therapy" and taking anger-management classes in jail provided Cline a jump-start on DRC programs. He's on the ninth step of moral recognition therapy's 16 steps, the first 12 of which are done in a group setting.

"It made me look back a little bit on what I've done," Cline said.

Algebra instruction helped Cline prepare to take and pass his GED test while in jail. He dropped out of the Waynesboro Area School District in ninth grade.

Cline, who now lives with his parents, said he tried to keep to himself while on his block with 65 other men in jail.

"Playing cards and working out, that's all there is to do," he said.

The DRC started Cline's participation with a pretreatment session, then a 90-minute life-skills class. Participants filled out sample job applications, and practiced asking and answering questions in mock job interviews.

"It was different," Cline said. "I had never interviewed anyone else."

Eaton said peer pressure in the group sessions can be used to change behavior for the better. The Franklin County center, which won a County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania award this spring, successfully graduates 60 percent of clients from its programs. The national average is 40 percent.

"Everybody is here to give each other advice and keep everyone on the right path," Cline said.

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