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Allegheny County Receives Funds For Adult Parole And Probation Programs

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Allegheny County received roughly $3 million in funds from the state to support parole and probation services for adults, potentially improving the system to reduce recidivism; libraries across the state are thinking about how to carry forward new digital services as they open again; and an athlete from Irwin will compete in this year’s Paralympics in Tokyo in goalball.

Individualized assessments could improve parole, probation services (0:00 - 6:30)

Allegheny County received $2.7 million dollars in funds from the state to enhance the adult probation and parole services. These funds could ideally address and reduce recidivism for those with convictions, which as of mid-June was about 1,700.

Daniel Lee, is a professor and department chair for criminology and criminal justice at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He explains probation and parole are similar, however, they differ due to when the community supervision is assigned. Probation is the original sentence given in court, while parole is if the person is incarcerated and then released early.

“Actually, before we even had prisons as a place for punishing offenders, the idea was that we wanted to monitor people in the community,” Lee says. “And we are going back to that process with the engagement of the modern system of probation and parole. But as prisons and jails become more crowded, probation and parole seem to be a reasonable punishment mechanism.”

Lee explains that the best way to reduce recidivism is to tailor reentry services to the person. But the specialized programs start with a thorough assessment of the individual.

“They should be receiving the types of treatment that is going to make them the best person they can be,” he says. “So for some that might be employment training, it might be basic education services, for others, it might be cognitive behavioral therapy.”

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh expands its digital offerings (6:32-13:00)

The pandemic temporarily closed countless businesses and community centers, and public libraries were no exception.

Dan Hensley, the adult programming coordinator with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, says despite closing their doors, Pittsburgh library didn’t halt services. It shifted to digital, particularly for technological training.

“Something that we realized about ourselves is that a lot of our services that we offered around technology were very much centered on the physical experience. We’ve really bulked up our ability to make appointments with people, and we added online classes,” says Hensley.

Hensley says abandoning physical experiences meant changing people’s perceptions of what the library does.

“I think when people think of the library, they think of the building with columns. But actually, where our major asset that we can leverage is, we have these creative, dedicated and really smart people who work at the library and have committed themselves to this work.”

As for the post-pandemic world, Hensely says the library’s new digital services are here to stay.

“We just adapted our tried and true essential services to the online environment. So it makes sense to keep the virtual element too, because the contents are the same, and it's just a new way to reach new audiences, and a way to make it more accessible to people, and spread those programs and services out there.”

USA Goalball team confident for 2021 Paralympic Games (13:10-18:00)

The Tokyo Paralympic Games are set to take place this summer, and 12 athletes have been selected to represent Team USA in goalball. Goalballis designed for visually impaired athletes. They attempt to score goals in the opposing team’s net, rolling and blocking a ball with sleigh bells in it. The sport was created in 1946 originally created for injured World War II veterans.

“I've been working for this since I was like 13 years old. And so my dream was to always go to a Paralympic Games and represent the country and, you know, try to win gold,” says Calahan Young, an Irwin, Pa. resident and one of the athletes on Team USA’s goalball team.

In 2018 and 2019, Young competed in the World Championships and Parapan American Games respectively.

“It's the NFL for football or the NBA for basketball. So playing at the World Championships and the Parapan American Games, it's just an honor. You get to go and represent your country and you get to play other teams that are also doing the same thing but are also the best at their sport,” says Young.

As for the 2021 Tokyo Games, Young says he thinks Team USA will do well.

“I feel confident that we're going to have a medal,” he says. “We were just in Lithuania. We won. And that was the first time a USA team has won that tournament since 2007.”

The 2021 Tokyo Paralympics begins on August 24th and runs through September 5th.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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