There was a presentation at the DOC Leadership meeting in November on trafficking. That presentation was mainly focusing on trafficking that occurs within our prison systems, but did also discuss the problem as a whole. The professor leading the presentation made a comment that caught Superintendent Melinda Adams' attention: there was a recent bad case of sex trafficking in Mercer County.
That comment led Supt. Adams to research the topic. She found that western Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of human and sex trafficking in the country. She also learned that there is an organization located in her prison's backyard that assists young victims of sex trafficking.
Upon speaking to the woman that founded and ran the organization, Supt. Adams found it disturbing that this organization currently has nine girls in their home, ranging from 15 months to 16 years of age. Supt. Adams also learned about some of the trauma these children have gone through and what the organization is doing to assist. They are currently licensed in nine states, but the majority of their residents, even those in other states, come from Western Pennsylvania. They have a home in a rural area of Mercer County where these children live with them and receive treatment and care to allow them an opportunity to hopefully live a normal life.
Project Restore's success is based on donations. The staff at SCI Mercer held a collection and got an overwhelming response through the donations of hygiene products, cleaning supplies, clothes, slippers, blankets, snacks, books, school supplies and more than $750 in gift cards and money just to name a few. On Dec. 18, Supt. Adams, Superintendent's Assistant Nicole Franz and Lt. Brain Mitchell took those supplies to a local drop off. There, they had the opportunity to meet with Executive Director Jess Padilla, whose gratitude was present with each box as the three unloaded the truck.