SUNBURY — A faith-based prison ministry involved in Northumberland County Jail offered the county to provide alternative sentences to offenders on Wednesday.
At the public meeting for the prison board, Jubilee Ministries CEO Ryan Newswanger and several chaplains informed board members that the organization can provide group homes to those individuals in the court system instead of prison time. A judge could potentially sentence a defendant to the group home located in Lebanon County at no cost to the county.
"We are looking for people who want to change their lives," he said. "This is not a vacation, this is not a get-out-jail-free card. This is the real deal."
Jubilee has a chaplain in the new jail in Coal Township. The six-county program, which includes Northumberland and Snyder counties, is strict and they can't take everyone. Each person is vetted before being accepted into the program that has room for up to 30 individuals, Newswanger said.
"We are tough, but it is tough love," he said. "We really do care."
The ministry was started 42 years ago and now has 17 chaplains in 10 state and county facilities. Eighty percent of their funding comes from the thrift shop program that employs the inmates and the remaining 20 percent comes from donations from churches, businesses and individuals, he said.
The length of stay ranges, but on average is seven to 10 months. It is a 24/7 program, all finances are controlled by the group home and there is a high level of accountability, said Newswanger.
Commissioner Sam Schiccatano said the county should continue to work with Jubilee.
"Organizations like you are what we all feel makes a difference," he said. "I applaud you for doing what you're doing."
Warden Bruce Kovach said he is interested in alternative sentences provided by the organization and wants to explore their program further.