Staff, administration, inmates, volunteers, guest speakers and community organizations came together in acknowledging and taking responsibility in the Annual Day of Responsibility at SCI Smithfield.
The facility's gym was transformed into an auditorium where all in attendance heard heartfelt testimonies and encouraging words and saw first-hand how acts of crime impacts more than just the victim and the perpetrator. It runs deep and creates a ripple effect to families, neighborhoods, well-being and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
The day began with opening and welcoming remarks by Deacon Thomas McFee and Smithfield Inmate Organization President, Marvin Flamer.
"This week we try to remind people of the impact of crime," said Karen Laird, director, Office of Victim Services. Laird, an annual participant for the Day of Responsibility (DOR), had the men do an exercise that consisted making two columns on a piece of paper. On the left they wrote "Past" and on the right "Present/Future." She then asked the men to write under the "Past" column characteristics to describe them when they first came to jail. The men shared such words as "liar," "disrespectful," "reckless," "selfish," "belligerent," "rebellious," "reactive" and "pain." She then asked the men to write characteristics that describe them now after being in programs, getting an education, learning a trade and practicing their faith. The men shared such words as: "sincere," "open-minded," "responsible," "God-fearing," "thinker," "discipline" and "successful." The next step was to rip the paper in two and throw away the "Past" column and hold on to the hope of the future and to focus on being a better person. Laird encouraged the men to open their hearts and minds and to remember that every action and choice they make has an impact on someone.
Superintendent Jamey Luther said she has been to five facilities and she has never seen where the inmate organization has a large role in sponsoring and planning the Day. It really shows the commitment of both staff and the men, she said.
A favorite of the men included Daniel "Danny Mac" McIntyre, director, Bureau of Community Corrections. In his fast-talking and entertaining way, Danny Mac passionately told stories and analogies that really made the men think as well as laugh. He told them about the advice that his mother taught him as a young boy: You are never the smartest person in the room, you can always learn something.
"I always learn something when I come to Smithfield," he said. He then told a story of a man that unbeknownst to him was building a house that would be given to him. He took shortcuts just because it didn't matter to him. He thought the house was for someone else, but in the end the owner gave it to him as a gift. McIntyre encouraged the men to make sure that the "house" they are building is the best house because it may be your house. "Every day we have influences on people, so give your best," he said.
Each one of us has a different perspective and each one has a different approach in solving a problem. McIntyre said it doesn't matter how you get there, just get there. It's about each one making a change. He concluded by informing the men about Community Corrections and what it has to offer upon release. Secretary John Wetzel has initiated 11 programs to help with reentry and reintegration back into society, McIntyre said.
"We want success for you. Choose to have a positive attitude, be the leader of your life, and choose the path that is best for you. Do the right thing and you may impact someone's life that you know nothing about," he said.
Other speakers included Craig Miller, a victim advocate speaker who spoke on how one day, the worst day of his life, was drastically and tragically changed forever when his 12-year-old niece Kelly was raped and murdered. Miller spoke of the effect that it has had on her family even up to this present time. He said he cannot have an outdoor light because it reminds him of that terrible day, almost 50 years ago. He goes around the state to speak at a variety of events and prisons letting people and prisoners know how that crime committed against his niece has impacted his family. But he also lets his audience know that he has forgiven the murderer. Forgiveness is a way of freeing the family and yourself. He encouraged the men to make the most out of incarceration, so that when they do return to society or even if they do not return to society, get your dignity back and function well.
Retired Deputy and former Superintendent John Thomas spoke on the Rite of Passage and the three stages that goes along with it: Separation-Past; Transition-Preparation; and Future-Reintegration. He stirred and challenged the men to look at ways on what they can do to improve themselves. He even offered a few suggestions, including surrounding yourself with positive people of like mind; making no provisions, don't have a plan B in case things don't work out; and everyone should have a Paul (mentor) Timothy (protégé) and Barnabas (encourager) in their life. You can't do it alone. Thomas pressed the men who were fathers to realize that their children need them. They need to hear that their father is proud of them. He ended by saying, "It's not how you start but how you finish."
"I promise you that it will be hard, people won't want to trust you, people won't believe in you but in that in the end it will be worth it," he said.
Many inmate speakers shared from their hearts and prepared remarks about what the Day of Responsibility means to them. Each one shared how their past—including relationships, circumstances, peer pressure and rebelliousness—played a major role in their downward-spiraling life of crime that included selling drugs, being selfish, chasing women, rape, robbery and murder. Shawn Husick, Activities and Organizer of the day said, "The most rewarding part of the day for me is seeing the men take responsibility. They dig deep into their inner self; they become vulnerable in front of their peers to share their story and recognize what they have done. They value their victim and look through the eyes of their victim. The speakers really hit home with the men all day and the day accomplished what it was meant to do—to take responsibility."
The day culminated in representatives of the SIO and the administration giving back to the community. In an 18-year period SIO has donated more than $181,000 dollars. Since its inception, the SIO has helped numerous organizations by giving back to those that they may have harmed. Today those organizations included, Huntingdon House, Tussey Mountain Backpack Program and Juniata Valley's Weekend Blessings Program. Each representative spoke of how far the donations they received today will go in helping families.
In closing, Supt. Luther thanked the SIO for sponsoring this wonderful event, the speakers, the food service and everyone that had a part in today. She challenged the men and said, "It's not over yet. Figure out the reason why you are here because it's not by accident. Why is it? We all have a path to follow and if you don't know your path, then figure it out."