SCI Forest Prepares Inmates for ‘Going Home’ with Career & Reentry Fair
(Photos by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography)
According to SCI Forest Superintendent Derek Oberlander, the reentry fair is a program designed to help the released inmates have a successful transition back into their communities.
The fair was developed by SCI Forest’s Reentry Services Office, which also offers assistance with everything from resumes to job searches for inmates preparing for their release. It was announced by fliers posted at all of the housing units, as well as on the SCI Forest institutional channel.
The program for the inmates began with a presentation by PA CareerLink, where inmates were introduced to the many programs offered, which range from training, apprenticeship, and online services, to help with skills assessment, resume development, and job search skills.
“Prison reform changed things,” inmate Darren told exploreClarion.com.
“They didn’t have this much before, it wasn’t always like this. This gives you a better chance of succeeding,” he added.
After the information on CareerLink was presented, the inmates proceeded into the gym area, where organizations and employers had tables set up.
Inmates were encouraged to interact with the representatives to obtain information about educational and vocational opportunities that may be available after the are released.
Organizations in attendance included Renewal; PA Department of Banking Securities; OVR; Erie/Sharon C.C.C.; Northern PA Regional College; Salvation Army of Pittsburgh; Gaudenzia; Triangle Tech; Bureau of Offender Re-Entry and Community Outreach; Greater Erie Community Action Committee (GECAC); Impact Services; State VA Rep (Mr. Yoder); Goodwill of South Western PA; and Flagger Force.
Another inmate explained how the Career and Reentry Fair was helpful to him.
“It’s good to have this opportunity rather than to have to go home and do it all ourselves,” inmate Anthony said.
One inmate, named Jay, noted that he had attended the reentry fair last year, as well, and was grateful for the connections he had made, as his release is scheduled in the near future.
“I was able to set up appointments in some places, and I already have that relationship from talking to them here,” he noted.
Inmate Lawrence told exploreClarion.com that he “was enlightened on some different avenues available today at the job fair.”
According to Superintendent Derek Oberlander, the Career and Reentry Fair is just one of the services offered to help inmates who will be reentering communities.
“We want to make it better when they go home to help reduce criminal behavior,” Oberlander said.
SCI Forest currently houses 2,159 inmates. Of that population, only 14% (311 inmates) are serving life sentences, which means the other 86% will reenter their communities at some point.
With most of the inmates at SCI Forest looking at reentering society at some point, the program serves multiple purposes, such as reducing recidivism, improving public safety, and saving money.
A primary focus of reentry efforts is to remove or reduce barriers to successful reentry so that returning citizens – who have paid their debts to society deserve a second chance – are able to compete for a job, attain stable housing, support their children and their families, and contribute to their communities, according to PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“They really try to help us to better ourselves here and step out as better men. I really appreciate that,” inmate Ulysses stated.
(This is the first article of a series of articles on SCI Forest.)
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