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Comms debate reentry program

By MIKE REUTHER

mreuther@sungazette.com

Lycoming County Commissioner Rick Mirabito questioned the effectiveness of GEO Reentry Services in the rehabilitation of criminals Tuesday.

His comments came following fellow Commissioner Jack McKernan’s statements regarding less overcrowding in the county prison.

He noted, for example, that in the past year, there were 25 unoccupied jail beds compared to 2016 when the figure was 15 available beds.

“Today, no one is housed outside the county,” McKernan added.

Mirabito said GEO, which offers treatment programs that help keep offenders out of jail, has a less than sterling track record.

Just one in three people who are in the program are successful with it, he claims.

“The money we use for GEO is from taxpayers,” he said.

The county pays $700,000 a year for GEO services, according to Mirabito.

He called for the county to re-evaluate the program’s overall success.

“It’s not that I don’t think reentry is a good tool,” he said.

But Mirabito said spending money for resources targeted toward helping the many criminals suffering from mental health problems might be a better use of funds.

“My biggest issue is how do we cut our prison overcrowding? From that perspective, it’s been a tremendous success,” Commissioner Tony Mussare told the Sun-Gazette.

He agreed with Mirabito that it’s worth at least re-evaluating the program.

“Our job is to be skeptical and to make sure taxpayers are getting value for what they pay for,” Mirabito said.

The county’s contract with GEO runs out in 2021, he noted.

Scott Metzger, a former county probation officer and Republican candidate for commissioner, said GEO worked successfully in a western Pennsylvania county.

Elliott Weis, a local attorney and Democratic commissioner candidate, said he was concerned that many criminal offenders later have problems finding work.

According to its website at www.georeentry.com, GEO “delivers evidence-based treatment and supervision programs for adult probationers, parolees and pretrial defendants in residential, in-prison and non-residential reentry centers. At the core of GEO Reentry’s treatment and training is cognitive-behavioral therapy, intended to change criminal attitudes, social skills and interpersonal problem-solving.”

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