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North Neighborhoods
Commissary income to fund prison rehab programs

Sunday, June 08, 2003

By Nancy Welsh

The Butler County Prison Board will dip into the jail's commissary fund to keep a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program going in the face of state funding cuts.

Warden Rich Gigliotti told the board the program, which brings in counselors to work with inmates on substance abuse problems, would be dropped unless a replacement could be found for $89,000 it has received from Harrisburg in the past.

"State funding cuts have come directly home to us," Gigliotti said.

Gigliotti said the drug and alcohol rehab program has been in use in the county for eight years. Kim Clark, head of the county's drug and alcohol program, arranges for two members of the Ellen O'Brien Gaiser Addiction Center in Butler Township to come to the prison to talk to groups, sometimes meeting with individuals separately.

It's an uphill battle: State figures show there is a 66 percent failure rate in rehabilitating prison inmates, and Gigliotti thinks that's optimistic. "The figure is actually more like 80 or 85 percent," Gigliotti said.

But the successes that do happen are worth it, he said. "I have been in the business too long. The last thing you want to do is give up."

Gigliotti said the average stay for an inmate is 28 days, and there is some hope for rehabilitation in that amount of time, with counseling.

Other inmates are barely sobered up before they are out in the street again, he said, and there's little hope for meaningful rehabilitation in that case.

Prison board member Jack McMillin made a motion to continue the drug and alcohol rehab program for a year using money from the commissary fund. He stipulated that the fund would be reimbursed if money were allocated this year from the state.

The board unanimously approved the motion.

Gigliotti said he has been watching the commissary fund grow since he became warden in 1988. The $200,000 presently in the account is a result of about $2,000 per month from a telephone system in which inmates make collect calls, and from the mini-store, where inmates buy personal care items.

The fund was set up to benefit all inmates. Gigliotti intends to use the money to buy sports equipment for the planned new prison.

Nancy Welsh is a freelance writer.

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