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Fireside Chats at Laurel Highlands Provide Insight, Fun for Staff and Inmates

July 15, 2020 12:00 AM
By: DOC Staff

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A CO takes a foul shotSCI Laurel Highlands has been hosting weekly Fireside Chats with interesting topics and conversations—and a little friendly competition for fun.

The Fireside Chats are held weekly hosted by Deputy Superintendent Robert Snyder and cohosted by a pair of inmates. Each week there are special guests who speak on a variety of topics, as well as a foul-shooting competition with soda at stake.

Deputy Snyder starts every week with any updates that may be necessary that occurred during the past week.  After that, he does a question and answer session with questions that the inmates have submitted.  When that is all completed, he turns it over to the guest speaker, who at a recent chat was Rex Beckner, an RN and Laurel Highlands' infectious control nurse.  He went over all aspects of COVID-19, including what it is, how they test for it, what precautions to take, etc.

At another chat, Canine Partners 4 Life was highlighted with a panel discussion and training demonstrations. One of the pups, Gunny, even assisted Unit Manager Rebecca Witt with the foul-shooting competition.

For two months now, these chats have provided a light-hearted and enjoyable part of the week for everyone at Laurel Highlands. The chats are recorded and streamed on the inmate channel for inmates to watch.

In addition to the special topics and guests, Snyder answers questions from the housing units regarding these ever-changing times. Questions can be institutional or big picture, whatever inmates want to ask.  

Arguably the most fun activity is the foul-shooting competition. The concept is that there is a specific housing unit chosen every week randomly. The staff member will be shooting for that housing unit, which has been given a number to decide whether the staff member (who does not know the number) will successfully shoot more than or less than the amount. Twenty shots total are attempted, and if the housing unit is correct in their guess, they are awarded with soda.

The week before the individual shoots the foul shots, a block is picked. The block knows who is shooting the foul shots and they’re given a number and told to vote over or under. Recently, Officer Fisher was selected and his number was 12. The block chose under; he made 10 out of 20 shots, so the block won the soda that week.

Of course, ideas and suggestions are welcome.  For instance, Witt shot for GA unit. After all was said and done, GA knew that the assigned number that she was to make was four. The population decided that Witt would shoot "over" 4.  GA inmates were awarded soda as Witt successfully made 8 shots.

A panel sits for a Fireside Chat

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