From the Desk of Dr. Tom Zeager
New Prison for LCP/ First Info Meeting
September 21, 2022
Justice & Mercy’s Comments
I very much appreciated the informational meeting on September 21, 2022, at the Lancaster County Training Center. I was glad that approximately 30 people attended. Thank you for the positive effort and good start. I’m looking forward to additional meetings regarding the new correctional facility.
1. Spread the Net of Info Gathering
Are the people planning the new prison are the same ones running the present system? Naturally, they need to be included, however, I recommend the prison board spread a broader net for gathering information on the new prison's appearance. When Consultants announced they were conducting a needs assessment they said they were getting their assessment from law enforcement, the court, and the prison. This reminded me of more of the same “trail them, nail them and jail them.” We need to focus more on treatment.
2. With Great Respect for Those Leading This Cause
With all due respect for the present leaders on the committee, we need to include other organizations and faith-based groups who actively bring hope to the system via their efforts. We emphasize the need to spread a broader net that includes treatment (i.e. trained individuals in mentoring, social work and mental health). We need to do more to change lives, give hope, and teach the inmates on how to develop good characteristics and become responsible people.
Mentors, Social Workers and Mental Health Professionals Involved in Planning
I want to emphasize that the input from the Prison consultants seems like more of the “trail them, nail them and jail them” mentality. We need to teach inmates on how to “do good and be good.”
3. Justice & Mercy Suggestions
When the Consultants spoke about their needs assessment, I did not hear anything about the following topics:
We encourage the committee to abandon the “trail them, nail them and jail them” tactics and move towards providing inmates the information and tools to empower them on how to become productive and responsible citizens.”
4. Bring Hope to the Equation
Our goal should be to cut the recidivism rate to at least 25%. To do this we must start by introducing hope! Most of the people in prison do not have any hope. Without hope they will ALWAYS recidivate and become repeat offenders.
Our present recidivism rate is about 70% – repeat the crime and do the time. This shows our system isn't effective but we can make improvements to change this!
At what point do we start planning on how to create public safety, change lives, and help empower inmates to become responsible people? Let's start now, in the planning stage.
People from the community speak of these issues, but I did not hear from the Consultant these issues of treatment. Perhaps, it was mentioned but I didn’t notice.
In Lancaster County we have an abundance of treatment organizations. It’s time that we empower them to create public safety from faith-based and otherwise.
The government should be willing to partner with the private sector or possibly, step aside and allow the private sector to do what the government is unable to.
5. Recommendations for Meetings
If we are listening to the people, we should videotape the meetings and make these recorded meetings available to the committee and the public. Recorded meetings should be published on the prison website as well as being available in a written format.
It would be helpful if the Consultant prepared a handout at the beginning of the meeting stating what they heard from the community in the previous meeting. This will hopefully keep us from repeating what others have said, which will then make us be more concise and effective.
In the Consultant’s handout, they should highlight the suggestions taken from the community that they are taking into consideration. This should speed up the process of understanding.
I know undertaking this project is not easy and will take a lot of
time and effort, but I believe if we put our best foot forward, we can
accomplish some of the things listed above. I know it will not be perfect, but I ask that we at least try!
6. A Reason for Offenders to Change
We should stop thinking about lock them up and throw away the key
except for the offenders who make it clear that they are unwilling to change.
Maybe the offenders who claim they don’t want to change need a reason
to change—We should provide that reason!
Dr. Tom Zeager, President
Justice & Mercy
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