PA Program Takes Whole-Life Approach to Inmate Rehab


The old block of the state prison in Woods Run, Penn., smells of urine. Prisoners live two to a cell, in cells stacked five tiers high. A short walk across the yard, prisoners in a treatment program live isolated from those general population inmates in orderly pods. They have work tables to make motivational posters that hang on walls. One poster urges cleanliness with a hand-colored picture of a yellow rubber ducky. After closing the 126-year-old prison along the Ohio River for two years, the state reopened it in 2007, and a portion is being used to rehabilitate drug- and alcohol-addicted inmates who committed crimes related to their substance abuse.

New Jersey-based Community Education Centers runs four therapeutic communities for 183 inmates separated from the 800 general population prisoners, some of whom are serving life sentences. The prisoners in the addiction program start their day with morning stretches and by reading inspirational messages before spending up to five hours in therapy sessions and other meetings. Prison rehab in these “community” settings teaches general skills, including etiquette, such as properly introducing yourself to a stranger. “They’re coming out,” said one expert. “Wouldn’t you want them to get the skills they need?”


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