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Prisoner rehab program emulated in area

October 05, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

TRI-STATE -- The Franklin County (Pa.) Day Reporting Center has produced award-winning results for rehabilitating criminal offenders and now other counties in the Tri-State are looking to replicate those outcomes.

Applying a few coats of paint is about all that needs to be done before a Day Report Center opens Wednesday to serve Berkeley and Jefferson counties in W.Va.

And Washington County judges will soon hear more details about a similar center proposed in their area.

"We'd be providing treatment services for those addicted to drugs and alcohol," Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said.

Various law enforcement, corrections and judicial officials have been talking about the feasibility of starting a day reporting center for more than a year, Mullendore said. Potential costs are being evaluated so the commissioners can be asked for funding later this year, he said.

The new center in Berkeley and Jefferson counties received $193,800 in state grants for the 2009-10 fiscal year. The two counties contributed $45,300 combined, according to Executive Director Joseph P. Sacchet.

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"It saves the county $48 a day (per prisoner), and in a jail cell they're not receiving treatment," Sacchet said.

The Franklin County Day Reporting Center opened in Chambersburg in 2006 at a time when the county's old jail was overcrowded. As many as 30 Franklin County inmates had to be housed in other prisons at a cost of $60 per inmate per day.

Franklin County inmates can serve a shorter jail sentence by fulfilling Day Reporting Center requirements and attending classes. Sacchet said nonviolent criminal offenders from Berkeley and Jefferson counties could avoid jail time altogether.

Since its opening, an average of 125 clients have been registered each month at the Franklin County Day Reporting Center. They must check in for drug and alcohol testing, and participate in cognitive behavior treatment and job skills training.

"The very first day we opened, we received 50 clients from the jail. ... We wanted all of their needs to be met in one place," said Kim Eaton, program director of the Franklin County DRC.

"We're talking about a 20 percent reduction (in jail population) that's been consistent for three years," Franklin County Jail Warden John Wetzel said, noting that he can now rent beds to other counties for up to $1 million a year.

Franklin County partnered with BI Inc., a company that provides trained professionals to serve as case managers and therapists. Sacchet, who retired after serving as warden at all three state prisons south of Hagerstown, contracted with counselors to build his own programs, which he said could also serve Morgan County in the future.

Sacchet thanked the community corrections board, the two counties' commissioners, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely and administrative assistant Brook Tucker for their roles in launching the Day Report Center. He said Martinsburg was the only large community in West Virginia without a reporting center.

Sacchet oversaw an overhaul of 406 S. Raleigh St., a single-family house that had been converted into apartments. Workers revamped the heating, air-conditioning and electrical systems, and installed cameras and door-entry systems to boost security.

"We've done a monstrous amount of work to get this house acceptable," said Sacchet, who was hired March 30.

Remaining renovations will be done by Day Report Center clients, who face a community-service requirement in their programs.

Urine testing will be conducted at the Berkeley/Jefferson Day Report Center for the clients and other individuals required to submit samples. Sacchet expects that most clients, none of whom can be sexual crimes convicts, will remain enrolled in programs for eight to 12 months.

Almost 350 people -- or 60 percent of incoming clients -- have graduated from the Franklin County Day Reporting Center, which was recognized this spring by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. Nationally, 40 percent of incoming clients complete their DRC programs, Eaton said.

Eaton's last review of data revealed 20 percent of Franklin County DRC graduates entered the county jail again. Statistics were not measured for instances of Franklin County DRC graduates being incarcerated in state prisons or other counties' jails.

Eaton spoke at the American Correctional Association conference in August. She has hosted Franklin County DRC tours for corrections officials from several states, including Florida, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Other Pennsylvania communities with demographics that mirror Franklin County are considering whether to open day reporting centers.

"A lot of them are looking at it now because of our success," said Wetzel said, adding that leaders of other communities need to ensure the programs make sense for their needs.

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