HARRISBURG – A program aimed at helping inmates better themselves has ended after a year of testing at five Pennsylvania state prisons.
Now Department of Corrections officials are evaluating the program’s effectiveness with the hope of acquiring funding to continue it into the coming year.
Beating the Odds, which began 30 years ago in the Pittsburgh area and mostly worked with young adults and students, was piloted at SCIs Coal Township, Greene, Muncy, Pine Grove and Smithfield from July 2017 to July 2018.
At each prison, 25 inmates were recommended by staff for the program that provides individuals with stepping stones to a better life, including mentoring during incarceration and upon release from prison, as well as assistance in obtaining employment.
“Ninety percent of our inmates will return home one day, and our preliminary evaluation of this program shows that participation has resulted in positive outcomes for inmates,” Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said.
“Most people want to succeed in life, yet some who have great potential have made serious mistakes,” said Rocco Scalzi, founder of Beating the Odds Foundation and motivational speaker through Quarterbacks of Life.
“Through this reentry program, a flexible curriculum allows motivational speakers, program coordinators and prison teams to work with inmates to overcome obstacles and set their lives on paths to success.”
The program, which is a journey of success, helps inmates, particularly those age 18 to 27, to understand the nature of success, identify and challenge things that prevent success and uses five powerful stepping stones to success to achieve dreams and goals.
The program also assists inmates in finding employment and furthering their education upon release from prison.
“For people to be successful, even former inmates, they have to have dreams and be able to put those dreams into attainable goals,” Scalzi said.
“We also help them to realize that they have potential, how to develop that potential, maintain a positive mental attitude and to never give up.”
The program works with inmates who have 12 to 18 months remaining on their minimum sentence expiration dates. At the end of this first year, several inmates have been released from prison.
One, through contact with Scalzi and his connections, has gained employment with a business in the Philadelphia area. Another recently released inmate is beginning her mentoring opportunities with Scalzi.
Other inmates who continue to serve their time are excited about the opportunity to mentor other inmates in the program if it is continued.
Scalzi is a former Altoona City police officer and a Vietnam veteran. He has worked for decades with individuals, schools, government entities and agencies to help anyone who has potential to set their life on a path to success.