A new partnership between the SCI Smithfield Reentry Services Office and Penn State University began in 2019, with a target launch date of Sept. 1, 2021. The program would allow inmates to take courses taught by a PSU professor.
In December 2020, the mission of SCI Smithfield was reworked, and it became the new reception facility for male inmates in the DOC — and it would no longer have an RSO or need for this program.
Instead, the program was moved to SCI Huntingdon. Despite the change in venue, the PSU/Huntingdon RSO Pilot Program achieved its goal and launched on Sept. 1.
The program allows inmates to participate in classes via Microsoft Teams. The first course is Entrepreneurship, and it will run eight weeks with six students. This class will be followed by Principles of Recovery, Certified Recovery Specialist and memoir/Personal Essay Writing.
In addition to valuable lessons that can help upon reentry, participants will receive a certificate for each course they complete. For the upcoming Certified Recovery Specialist program, inmates can get the training they need and (upon release) can take the test to obtain certification.
The classroom is a repurposed activity room, complete with six individual desks, space for RSO materials, a staff computer desk, a 51-inch TV, cleaning materials (following COVID-19 protocol) and access to a camera and microphone. Paint has been ordered for murals, and a painter assigned for when the shipment arrives.
A Reentry Services Office (RSO) prepares inmates nearing their release with special programming and opportunities. As opposed to a Transitional Housing Unit, where all participants live on the same unit, the RSO pulls inmates from the entire facility. This model allows staff to provide services to a larger number of participants.