DRC grads tout program success

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The Luzerne County Day Reporting Center, operated by GEO Reentry, held a graduation celebration for 52 people who successfully completed the program. GEO Reentry’s Day Reporting Centers offers a variety of programs that aim to rehabilitate offenders and help them successfully transition to life in the community. This article originally appeared in the Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said Wednesday she thought she would be the last person to be asked to speak at the county’s Day Reporting Center graduation.

It’s because of her office that offenders must participate in the program, she said.

But the event was about celebrating success, not about crimes and prosecution.

“Success begins by believing in yourself,” Salavantis told the 52 graduates of the county’s program. “And don’t take this the wrong way…but I hope I never see you again.”

Luzerne County’s DRC is the second of its kind in Pennsylvania and is focused on reforming those people who have gone through the criminal justice system and cutting costs by reducing the number of inmates being lodged at the county prison.

Participating nonviolent offenders are placed on home confinement and must report to the center for drug-and-alcohol testing and to participate in mandatory treatment plans.

Typically, it costs $94 a day to house an inmate at the county prison. The DRC program reduces that to about $38, saving the county more than $3 million since the program began, Luzerne County Correctional Facility Warden Joseph Piazza has said.

Since the program began three years ago, each of its four graduating classes has doubled in number, said DRC director Jennifer Lombardo.

“It’s the old belief that (we should) lock up (offenders) as punishment,” Lombardo said. “But, (everyone involved in the DRC) wants you to succeed, and you’ve done that.”

County Deputy Warden James Larson said Wednesday that it’s easy to sit in a cell all day and do nothing, and it takes hard work to complete the DRC program.

Salavantis told the class how hard work during her campaign to become district attorney paid off. She woke up every day believing she would be district attorney, she said. She overcame hurdles that included naysayers and having little experience in criminal law.

“Begin every day thinking you will do great things,” Salavantis said.

Program participant and graduate Donna Dotter, of Luzerne, said that without the DRC program, she doesn’t know where she would be. But, she has now been “clean” for two years and has a job. “It took me forever, but I’m here,” Dotter said.

Graduate Stephanie Maffei, of Freeland, said when she began the DRC program, she didn’t think there was hope for her. For the first few months, she didn’t follow the program’s guidelines. “I decided to try something different,” Maffei said of changing her attitude after setbacks.

“I gave the DRC all I had, and I’ve learned how to live a responsible…drug-free life,” Maffei said.