GEO official: Re-entry program reduces recidivism

Lycoming County’s re-entry services, provided by an organization called the GEO Group, has helped more than 200 former county prisoners transition back into the community with a lower likelihood of re-offending, GEO Re-entry Services Program Manager Michael Boughton told Rotary Club members Monday.

Boughton said roughly 90 percent of the millions of people incarcerated annually in the United States end up returning to their communities. Without the proper avenues to becoming a successful community member, often those newly freed individuals end up re-offending and going back to prison.

“The days of incarcerating individuals and throwing away the key are over,” he said. “They release them from prison with no tools to work with and expect something new to happen. At GEO, we try to provide (former inmates) with those tools.”

GEO’s services are meant to help inmates transition smoothly from former offenders into successful community members. Boughton said programming such as outpatient treatment for people dealing with substance abuse, personalized treatment plans with both group and individual aspects, GED completion opportunities and paths to employment help to “stop the revolving-door process of recidivism.”

“Our programming is intensive,” he said. “It provides them with accountability.”

Recidivism is when someone re-offends and goes back to prison, he explained.

By the end of 2017, since the program started in September of 2014, there were 207 program graduates. He said, on top of helping to reduce recidivism, the program has helped lower the prison’s inmate population, saving taxpayer dollars.

Before the re-entry program began, the prison frequently transferred inmates to other counties due to overcrowding, which is costly, Boughton said. In the past 18 months, no male inmates have been transferred, he said.

Some female inmates still need to be housed out-of-county, which is a national trend, he added.

“That’s something everybody is looking to resolve,” Boughton said. “Anything that the county needs, or any areas it’s struggling in, we’re a partner. We’re trying to come up with ways to put things in place and make things better.”

Boughton said the re-entry program’s next group of graduates will take the stage at 11 a.m. May 22 at the Community Theatre League, 100 W. Third St. An open house will follow at GEO’s facility, 330 Pine St., during which community members may tour the building and learn more about programming.

“I’d like anybody who has any questions to be able to come and get their answers,” Boughton said.