Pennsylvania community celebrates reentry program success

Luzerne County Reentry Service Center honored 53 program graduates for a winter Transition Ceremony at the Luzerne County Courthouse on February 26. The ceremony welcomed staff, county officials, program alumni, graduates and their families to celebrate participants’ hard work in completing the reentry program.

The winter Transition Ceremony featured keynote speeches from Luzerne County Judges Richard M. Hughes III and Joseph F. Sklarosky Jr., who each praised the graduates for their success in the program.

“I know I speak for all of the judges when I say this is one of my favorite events,” Hughes said, before continuing to praise graduates for a “tremendous success” in committing to and completing the reentry program. Echoing the sentiments from Judge Hughes, Judge Sklarosky said, “Each of you took advantage of an opportunity, an opportunity for offenders to redefine their lives.”

In addition to keynote speeches from local judges, the ceremony included remarks from successful program alumnus Julie Morales and three new graduates. Morales discussed her experience with GEO Reentry Services, including details about how she was able to change her own life after completing the program, according to local news reports.

Since completing the reentry program, Morales now works with addicts in recovery and credits the Luzerne County Reentry Service Center for their support. “[The program] guided me in such a way that I’ve never been guided before,” she said. “I actually love my life.”

Of the three graduates who spoke at the ceremony, two have participated in the reentry program before. While the service center strives to see every participant succeed on the first attempt, Program Manager Stacey Velez said the center is proud to offer individuals a second chance to change their behavior.

“Just because participants struggled the first time doesn’t mean it isn’t worth giving them the opportunity to try again, and this Day Reporting Center sees that,” Velez said.

The transition ceremony in February was the 12th graduation event at the Luzerne County Reentry Service Center since opening in 2010. The center provides evidence-based treatment, training, and supervision for up to 150 individuals at one time. Individuals referred to the center are required to participate in a multi-phase program that includes regular reporting to the center, intensive treatment and ongoing drug and alcohol testing.