Northampton County Prison offers over a hundred programs to help rehabilitate inmates throughout different sections of the jail on a yearly basis but a new program introduced early March is the first to have its own wing.
The program is called PEAK and stands for Personal Enrichment and Knowledge; like many of the programs offered at the jail PEAK is a faith based program.
“The purpose of this program is to give folks an opportunity to take a look at themselves and see how they ended up here in the jail and what they can do differently when they get out,” said director of corrections Arnold Matos.
Participants spend the majority of their time in the unit apart from the rest of the jail, they eat together, study the bible together and begin their day with a devotional.
Matos says even though the program is bible-based, inmates from any walk of faith are welcome to join and will learn other life lessons as well.
“How to get ID cards, how to get social security, how to write resumes, how to interview.
We'll have life skill classes that will be taught on how to balance a check book and these types of things,” said Matos.
Matos says he got the idea after learning of a similar program in Allegheny County called HOPE.
“We were able to sit in on classes, we were able to interview inmates, we were able to interview volunteers and the chaplains out there and found that it was a very good program and so we thought about what would it take for us to do it here in Northampton County” he said.
Matos adds the recidivism rate at Allegheny County also prompted him to introduce the program, “The male population was somewhere around 19% recidivism rate and the women population was somewhere between 16 and 18%” he said “ The national average is somewhere around 69 to 70%.”
After working with administrators, volunteers, and churches that already host inmate programs at the jail, Northampton county was able to kick off the PEAK program March 7th and since it's all volunteer, Matos says the 8 week program comes at little to no expense to the jail.
Currently, there are 15 participants, but the wing can house up to 28 men and Matos says other inmates have already put in their requests to enroll.
“You can educate a person as much as you want, but you need to change them from the inside out. So in order for a person to really change, they need more than head knowledge, they need to be able to sink within their inner being in order to be able to apply that when they hit the street,” said Matos.