Judge to day-reporting graduates: 11-18-14 is a new beginning

GEO Reentry Services has operated a day reporting center in Luzerne County, Pa., since 2010. The center provides intensive treatment and training to offenders at risk of recidivating and encourages their successful reentry into their communities. This news report first appeared in The Times Leader. 

WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County Judge Jennifer Rogers told 58 people gathered in the courthouse rotunda to remember 11-18-14.

Rogers used Tuesday’s date telling the large crowd it is the first day of their new lives.

Rogers was the keynote speaker for the county’s Division of Correctional Services and GEO Reentry Services graduation ceremony.

GEO Reentry coordinates the day-reporting center, which opened in 2010, that reforms those who have gone through the criminal justice system and cuts costs by reducing the number of inmates being lodged at the county prison. Non-violent offenders selected 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 $97 a day to house an inmate at the county prison. The day-reporting center reduces that amount to $38.

Two graduates, one of which is a U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq, praised the program for turning their lives around. The Army veteran, Matthew, said he self-medicated himself with alcohol for post-traumatic stress syndrome and brain trauma he sustained when injured by an improvised explosive device in Iraq.

“I have a lot of people to thank for giving me the chance for sticking by me,” Matthew said.

Joe said he grew up as an only-child in a well-to-do family. When he attended college in Pittsburgh, he said it was a “non-stop party.”

Matthew and Joe said their alcohol consumption led to criminal charges and stints in jail, where they turned their lifestyles around with the help of GEO Reentry staff and its programs.

“You are all here as graduates of the program,” said Division of Correctional Services Director J. Allen Nesbitt. “You all believe you can be successful.”

Rogers told the graduates that 11-18-14 is a new beginning for them.

“I ask you, what is 11-18-14? For you, it’s a date, a number to play in the lottery or a new beginning. It’s a date of promise,” Rogers said.