Open house explains Lycoming County reentry services

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Program Manager Nicole English leads a tour of the open house at the GEO Reentry Services and the Lycoming County Probation Department recently.

Reprinted from the Williamsport Sun Gazette

GEO Reentry Services opened its doors Thursday to provide a glimpse at the expansive programs that give people convicted of crimes the tools they need to be successful upon release.

The open house was meant to inform about the comprehensive efforts to reduce recidivism and fight the stigma attached to reentry.

“There are many that may be unfamiliar with what we do,” Nicole English, program manager, said. “We want the general public to be aware of the resources that we provide for people on parole and probation, but also for the community.”

GEO is a nationwide organization that has six facilities in Pennsylvania. Lycoming County partnered with GEO in 2014.

“We’re here to provide resources for people on probation or parole,” English said.

Most participants that are in a program at GEO get referral by the courts. A program could be an average of six to nine months to complete and each participant does regular check-ins and progresses through until graduation.

Elizabeth Harvey is a graduate from the program and is now an assistant case manager. “We give them what they need to be successful,” Harvey said. “That can often include drug and alcohol counseling, GED or college resources. We want to get them motivated to change.”

Harvey said the services they offer are wide-ranging and can include things like anger management, employment connections, and trauma therapy.

“There’s a general stigma surrounding someone who is on probation or parole,” Harvey said. “But we want to show them and others that they have a lot more to offer.”

Lycoming County’s GEO facility averages about 80 participants at any given time, but they will be expanding their services with a juvenile program.

“There’s a big lack of detention centers for juveniles in this situation,” Nick Henning, reentry coordinator, said.

As a reentry coordinator, Henning prepares inmates for release by getting them started in the reentry process they will continue once in the program. He said that helping many of these juveniles while they are young will greatly reduce recidivism rates.

“Like she [Harvey] said, there’s a stigma for anyone in cuffs,” Henning said. “And a lot of times these people are working full-time, they have families to take care of, they’re doing everything they can.”

At the event Thursday, each employee at the facility was available to discuss what they do, what their mission is, and was eager to walk anyone through the process of a program.

“We just wanted people to see what we’re doing here,” English said. “We are working everyday for a good outcome for these individuals.”