Year in Review: Secretary Wetzel Outlines Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ 2016 Achievements

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Today, Corrections Secretary John E. Wetzel outlined the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ most significant achievements of 2016.

‘With goals of protecting public safety, being transparent and fiscally responsible, reducing prison violence, providing inmates with life improving and life sustaining skills and providing employees with the knowledge needed to work in a challenging environment, 2016 was filled with many accomplishments at the facility and department level,’ Secretary Wetzel said.

Department of Corrections 2016 accomplishments include:

  • The awarding of $1.5 million to human service agencies serving 11 counties to provide Medication Assisted Treatment (Vivitrol) to inmates for substance use disorder, which will help more than 150 people fight opioid use disorder and return home as healthier and more productive citizens.
  • Continued work to reduce the need for administrative segregation/restricted housing through the testing of employee-suggested concepts. This initiative includes the DOC’s partnering with BetaGov, a non-profit organization that helps agencies turn ideas into tested concepts that are evaluated for efficacy.
  • The training of nearly 1,300 DOC employees in Crisis Intervention, which is used by employees to respond quickly and appropriately to a mental health crisis.
  • A significant amount of work around the delivery of mental health services to inmates that resulted in the U.S. Department of Justice closing its investigation into the DOC. DOC work in this area has ensured that inmates with serious mental illness and/or intellectual disabilities are no longer subjected to solitary confinement and are instead provided with specialized treatment to meet their individual needs.
  • Through the U.S. Department of Education’s Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, six state prisons will work with four Pennsylvania institutions of higher learning in a national pilot to allow inmates access to post-secondary education. The pilot’s goal is to help individuals obtain jobs and support their families upon release from prison.

Wetzel said that these accomplishments are only possible thanks to the more than 15,000 dedicated and highly-trained employees that are the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

‘It is thanks to their long hours and hard work that our agency is beginning to see a steady, year-after-year reduction in the inmate population, programs that actually change individuals and a safer prison system,’ Wetzel said. ‘On behalf of the DOC’s executive team, I would like to thank each one of our employees for what they do daily for the citizens of Pennsylvania.’

Wetzel said that upon review of the DOC’s major accomplishments, he believes Pennsylvania citizens will agree that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has become a progressive agency that works to return individuals to their communities as better people than when they were first committed to the state prison system.

‘Returning better citizens makes for a safer society, and that’s what we are all about,’ Wetzel said.