The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 10, 2014

Investing in our community


The Daily Item

—  A few years ago I was part of a group that visited Pike County Prison. Our county commissioners were also part of that group. On that visit, we gathered information and insight on the benefits of facilitating volunteers from the community to invest their time with the incarcerated and in preparing them for re-entry.

Does Commissioner Vinny Clausi remember the trip to Pike County? Does he remember the one important piece of insight that the Pike County warden had? The warden’s motto was, “give respect, get respect.” It was expected from all employees within the prison. However, problems continue to escalate within Northumberland County Prison. When will our Commissioners learn from Pike County’s approach?

Programs within the prison are limited but not because there is no need for them. Prison ministry volunteers have seen this need for years, hence the trip to Pike County. We understand there is more that could be done by community volunteers. Why has Commissioner Rick Shoch never approached any one of the existing volunteers for help getting more programs started?

What seems to be the overall perception is the lack of interest in these people. Many are incarcerated due to the fact no one has ever invested in them before now.

If you are a person concerned for your community, wouldn’t you prefer to see previously incarcerated people enter back into society with a trade skill, knowledge on how to budget money or how to be a better parent, a GED, and be a positive contributor to society? Most importantly, they just need encouragement and a sense of hope for their future.

Those in prison have also benefited from volunteer led programs like AA, Walking Your Faith, and a book reading club. There is a new group of volunteers called “Forever Free” that has begun a program recently. Yokefellow Prison Ministry, which has a long-standing history serving our local county prisons, continues to operate within the walls, but with limited support. Besides doing weekly meeting with the inmates, Yokefellow women volunteers continue to do a crocheting class with the women.

The information, being published by The Daily Item, about what may happen to the Laurelton Center adds to the confusion and misconceptions on what happens to the incarcerated. These people will re-enter our communities eventually. These people are not going to disappear. Many are waiting to be released but have no home plan.

A faith-based ministry like Laurelton could provide them with a place to live or do we prefer that they live in a cardboard box or a under a bridge? Many have said they would lack supervision at a place like Laurelton. Well then volunteer to help supervise. You might ever reap the reward of benefiting your community. Otherwise, those released could be living next door without you even knowing it.

Our approach, as Yokefellows, is that all have the opportunity to receive the changing power that only Christ can bring.

We all need to work together to make change happen or the cycle of incarceration will continue to repeat. We need to invest in these people. If you are not interested in investing in them, then please support those who do rather than standing against those who do. If there are other programs happening within the prison, you need to let the commissioners know. Still more could be done and our entire valley benefits as those lives are changed.

Brenda Broschart,

Northumberland