Jail, DA host conference on keeping inmates from offending again

Jail, DA host conference on keeping inmates from offending again

February 6, 2014
John Temas, warden of Washington County jail, lists points brought out at a recent brainstorming session on how to keep inmates from getting into trouble with the law after they’re released. - Barbara Miller / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

“I think we should be in the business of putting ourselves out of business,” Washington County jail Warden John Temas said Thursday. “It would be great for the taxpayer.”

It’s unlikely any county will padlock its jail from lack of use, but it’s a noble objective. Many of the inmates are repeat offenders, known in criminal justice lingo as “recidivists.”

Many refer to recidivism as the revolving door. “They go out, they come back,” Temas said. During one recent month, jail administrators focused on approximately 376 inmates being housed at the jail. “First commitments” – those who were first-time inmates at the Washington County jail – numbered just 67. Some of those may have previously been incarcerated elsewhere.

With this objective in mind, the Washington County jail and District Attorney Gene Vittone are sponsoring a seminar, “What Works and What Doesn’t to Reduce Recidivism.”

The three-hour workshop starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Washington & Jefferson College ballroom will feature Dr. Edward Latessa, a nationally known expert who is a professor and director of the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. Co-author of seven books including “Corrections in the Community” and “Corrections in America,” Latessa has directed more than 100 funded research projects including juvenile justice programs, drug courts, intensive supervision programs, halfway houses and drug programs, plus he audited 550 correctional programs to find those that are most effective.

Some defendants request work release from jail as a special condition of their sentences, but Temas and administrators at the Washington County jail are identifying jobless, nonviolent offenders as candidates for work programs.

“To release them from the correctional facility without a job is setting them up for failure,” said Temas, who recently visited the Berks County jail to see its re-entry efforts in operation.

The Washington County Prison Board Wednesday approved the seminar, which will cost taxpayers approximately $2,500. The seminar itself is being offered at no charge to participants.

Those interested in registering the seminar should email Deputy Warden Donald Waugh at waughd@co.washington.pa.us.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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