Williamsport clothing closet helps newly released prison inmates start anew 

The Clothing Closet at the Bethesda House on West Edwin St., Williamsport, sponsored by Saving Lives for Zachary. PHOTOS PROVIDED

Release from prison often brings with it a chance for a new start at life, but also means entering a new world with nothing but the clothes on your back. 

This is the reality for many of the men and women who enter the Transitional Living Centers in Williamsport. 

“People do come in with just the clothes on their back,” said Cleveland Way, program director of the Bethesda house, TLC’s men’s center.  “These are not things that are given to the re-entrants when they come in. We rely on donations from the community to help with those things. 

The items that can be donated are new or lightly used clothes, preferably interview appropriate attire. Bedding and hygiene items may also be donated, according to Way. 

The items in the clothing closet are not limited to the TLC participants, but members of the prison reentry community at large. 

Individuals released from prison may contact the Bethesda house to make an appointment to visit the closet.  Interview training and mock interviews for upcoming jobs are also available, Way said. 

The closet is sponsored by Saving Lives for Zachary.

The Transitional Living Centers include three state contracted home-plan houses for inmates in Williamsport. 

The centers serve as a home plan option for inmates who either don’t have a home to return to after prison, or who don’t want to return to family or friends and a life they are hoping to escape from. 

Lycoming County and north central Pennsylvania are no different from the rest of the United States when it comes to recidivism within the criminal justice system. 

According to a 9-year recidivism study released by the United State Bureau of Justice Statistics, the 401,288 state prisoners released in 2005 had 1,994,000 arrests during the 9-year period, an average of 5 arrests per released prisoner. Sixty percent of these arrests occurred during years 4 through 9.

In Lycoming County, two recidivism studies conducted over three years, showed that over 30% of inmates released from the county prison are arrested again after one year, and over 45% are rearrested after three years.  

For many reentrants, the lack of resources and long-term programming geared toward restructuring their lives could be the difference between success and failure. 

While the women’s TLC program has been in place since 1987 the only other long-term programming for men is the Men’s Shelter at the American Rescue Workers. The Men’s Shelter was started in 2019 by Way. 

Way then went on to help start the Bethesda House for TLC. 

“There was not a center like this in the center of the state,” Way said, referring to a home-plan program for released state prisoners. 

Author

  • Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.

Anne Reiner

Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.