For the staff at the newly opened Allegheny County GEO Reentry Services Center, rehabilitating probationers and parolees is about more than punishing bad behavior.
"Anytime a person does something positive we want to make sure we recognize that," says Lisa Zimmerman, program manager.
On Wednesday, GEO held an open house to introduce the new center to the community. Guests included those in need of services and parole officers.
"I'm excited," said state parole agent Tawnya Peek. "I'm going to look through my case load to see who can really benefit. I have a few who aren't really doing anything so I think this will be something that will motivate them."
In addition to providing daily check-ins, drug and alcohol testing, and case management, the center, which opened in February and receives state funding, is focused on rewarding their participants for good behavior. Participants are rewarded for actions ranging from showing up on time for a check-in to finding employment, in hopes it will motivate them to stay on the right track.
"The research shows it needs to be a four to one ratio, positive reinforcement to sanctions," says Adam Schlager, GEO district manager. "It's a amazing the positive impact that has on our participants."
Individuals are referred to the service center by the courts, probation/parole officers, or the State Correctional Institution and the center sees individuals with a range of criminal histories. Through GEO they receive help with employment readiness, career development, life skills, and GED preparation.
"The goal is not only to keep the community safe, but also to change the lives of our participants," said Schlager. "Without that continuum of care, from prison to the community, they can get lost in the shuffle."
Participants progress through three levels of treatment and supervision that impacts how frequently they are subjected to daily check-ins at the center. Their progression is impacted by factors such as drug and alcohol abstinence, compliance with parole board orders, and attendance.
"We're successful at what we do and we're ready to prove it to the community," said Schlager. "The reason we use the approach we do is because it works."
New center offers positive approach to reentry for ex-offenders