A meeting was held on Thursday 3/25 at a local church where local residents could come ask questions to the Director of the Community Corrections Center, located off Sportsman Road in Wernersville. Representative Jim Fox and Senator Mike Folmer arranged this meeting, as their offices received many calls from concerned residents. I attended this meeting from an impartial position so that I could report the story that way, but I admit I am pretty partial as I too am a concerned resident of the Community and having a Correctional Facility dumped in our small town makes me nervous. The meeting was a forum to ask questions, present concerns and get answers to them. A panel of folks representing CCC including the Director, Dept Secretary for Corrections, several employees of CCC and a Probation and Parole representative. The church was filled with well over 100 people in attendance who expressed their fears and concerns. I will do my best to report my understanding of them, and the answers given.
Q: Why was Wernersville selected for this facility?
A: The State Dept. of General Services contacted Dept of Corrections when Fire Tree left and made them aware of the facility.
Q: How many residents are currently housed?
241 – 90 are pre-releases, meaning they are within a year of serving their minimum sentence and have been without behavioral incidents in the prison facility. 150 of the residents are parolees – and these individuals could easily be living in your town or be your neighbor and you may not even know it.
Q: What is the nature of crimes committed?
A: Although the numbers presented were sketchy, I recall 3 murderers; 49 robberies, and 1 kidnap. The majority are drug related offenses.
Q: Why are these people saturating our communities, libraries, eateries, grocery stores, etc.?
A: The residents are allowed to sign out and have time parameters for their return. The CCC has provided 8 computers so far, and are trying to get more to alleviate tying up all local library computers. They travel by walking or public transportation to the local grocery stores as they must buy their own food and prepare their own meals. DOC will address the issues of groups filling up local eateries where parents used to feel it was safe to allow older children to patronize.
Q: Why are these residents allowed out late at night?
A: There are 3 curfew times – 7 PM, 9 PM and 10 PM. Residents must earn the later curfews, and most are related to jobs. Currently 31 residents have jobs. DOC will address the issue of curfews and setting more structured access to community for its residents. Public safety is their number one concern.
Q: Why are the residents of CCC depleting the local food bank? (Yes folks there is a local food bank on the grounds of Wernersville State Hospital for anyone in the community who needs it)
A: Residents of CCC volunteer time to help stock the food bank. Between 5 and 8 residents a month, only after volunteering, can take from the food bank.
The Deputy Secretary for DOC promised to address issues and concerns raised at Thursday’s meeting within 30 days. The panel was responsive and is willing to regularly interact with the local community to resolve issues and to help make the program of integrating into communities for these residents a success. CCC will contact local boroughs to submit updates in order to keep the community aware of happenings and progress on these concerns. A CCC employee also asked the community to embrace the facility and welcomes volunteers to be role models, coaches and mentors to these men who all they know is big city crime and survival skills. Several residents and churches including CBFC who hosted the meeting have successful volunteer and mentoring relationships and in some cases are teaching the CCC residents life skills so they can integrate into the community.
I don’t believe anyone who sat in the meeting on Thursday night at CBFC denies that people deserve second chances. As humans, we mess up – and those of us who do mess up are grateful for grace and mercy shown to us by our family, friends and neighbors.
We are grateful for the second chance and with an attitude of repentance and humbleness we move forward in life trying not to make the same mistakes again.
Residents presented some very real concerns and some, rightly so – were visibly upset. For the most part, I observed fear expressed respectfully but there were community residents who demand respect and cultural awareness speak out in manners that did not project an example of the respect they spoke of.
Plans are being made for future community meetings with CCC. Please contact Rep. Jim Cox or Senator Mike Folmer for this information.
Thank you to Calvary Bible Fellowship Church for providing a meeting place, and staff to operate sound equipment for this meeting.
Make a note of this number – put it in your cell phone or car – and if you observe any inappropriate behavior call CCC and it will be addressed immediately – per the Director. (610) 621-5360.
Your Our Robesonia correspondent at large…..Beth Sattizahn
More info at: http://wernersvillepa.blogspot.com
Thank you Beth for your impartial view. I have a feeling that some of the second chance
people will change their tune when there home is broken into, there child is kidnapped, their mother is raped, or their car is stolen. Here are some pix of the prison buildings. They are located on Main St. at the end, last 2 buildings on the right. Wfmz has created a blog on this subject in Topix http://www.topix.net/forum/source/wfmz/TNLNAFATG699UK65E