By MIKE REUTHER
Transitional Living Centers fulfill a valuable service for former female inmates now looking to re-enter society as contributing citizens.
"They are women transitioning back to the community," explained TLC Executive Director Greg Smith.
Two residential units located in Williamsport's historic district offer temporary quarters and a central base for them to gain the skills needed to become productive people.
TLC, he said, works with social service agencies to help address needs of the residents.
All of the residents, who number up to 34 at any one time, must be on state parole.
They come to TLC with a myriad of issues, including those with drug and/or alcohol problems.
That's why West Branch Drug & Alcohol is an important social service agency partnering with TLC. Other partners include Susquehanna Community Health and Dental Clinic and STEP for job-related and transportation issues.
Many of the women hold jobs while living at TLC.
"We do assessments. We address areas to help them be successful," Smith said. "We address errors in thinking to develop coping skills. We do cognitive restructuring."
Stephanie Davis, a TLC resident, called TLC a good place for helping her get back on her feet.
"It's a good program, very helpful," added Anna Wriglesworth, a two-month TLC resident.
TLC programs are constantly being improved to help better address needs of residents.
And Smith feels the programs are working.
He noted that 42 percent of women return to prison within three years.
However, just 22 percent of those who enter TLC's program end up back in jail.
"The Department of Corrections did a recidivism study and found that it was one of 11 programs in the state that actually reduced recidivism," he said.
The average stay time for a resident is four months.
Smith noted that residents must adhere to certain program rules or face getting sent back to prison.
Although the program is not structured along the lines of a military facility, there are expectations.
Chores are divided among residents.
The on-site kitchen, for example, is run by residents.
"We recognize effort as opposed to non-effort," he said.
Smith called his work "immensely rewarding."
TLC began in Williamsport in 1987 with just five residents.
It eventually expanded to 18 beds in 1992 before adding a second home and 16 more beds.
TLC is looking to introduce Second Chance Works, a job-supported program with local landlords who provide jobs to residents.
Overall, an important component of TLC is finding work for the residents.
The program is funded through the Department of Corrections and has also received support from such local groups as the First Community Partnership Foundation.