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Inmates to continue work at Centre Peace in Bellefonte

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS On Tuesday, the Centre County Board of Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding between the county and CentrePeace, Inc., shown above, that will keep inmates working at the facility.

BELLEFONTE — CentrePeace has been a part of the Bellefonte landscape since 1993. The facility, which sells used furniture, appliances and housewares, provides a working environment for inmates from the Centre County Correctional Facility.

On Tuesday, the Centre County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to a memorandum of understanding on behalf of the correctional facility and CentrePeace, Inc. The agreement establishes the joint responsibility of each party in completing protocols, programming and work activities to support eligible inmates participating in Project Restore at CentrePeace. The MOU covers the period of Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020.

According to county administrator Margaret Gray, the MOU was a necessary step to continue the relationship between the county and CentrePeace.

“This memorandum of understanding comes to you endorsed by the prison board of inspectors,” Gray told the board. “The correctional facility and CentrePeace have worked collaboratively since the beginning of CentrePeace in 1993. Both the correctional facility and CentrePeace share a responsibilities in the provision of restorative justice programs.”

Gray said that much has changed since 1993.

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS Centre Peace, located along the Benner Pike, has been in business since 1993.

“We’ve had leadership changes and best practice changes and we thought — and the prison board thought — that it would be prudent to outline exactly the responsibilities of each entity here so that we were really clear about each others commitment and responsibilities in a formal document,” Gray said.

Centre County warden Chris Schell was joined by CentrePeace executive director Cathy Brown to discuss the MOU. Schell said that it provides a detailed outline of responsibilities.

“I think this really clarifies each entities’ responsibilities … being able to identify what we’re both responsible for, especially with rehabilitation,” Schell said. “I think it’s been up and down, but now we can identify it and streamline it. We can open our communication up much better. I think it’s a great working relationship.”

Brown, who is relatively new to CentrePeace, believes that communication is the key to continued success between the correctional facility and CentrePeace.

“I’ve never known anything but open communication,” Brown said. “It’s been wonderful.”

According to Brown, the MOU should help clear up certain responsibilities.

“What this does is outline is any financial responsibility. We have compensation for trainees’ time, permissions that are required for various things … it just clarifies it,” Brown said.

Chair Michael Pipe said that a great deal of work went into the MOU.

“We had the opportunity as members of the prison board of inspectors to listen to a lot of the dialogue and conversations that have occurred. It’s been a long process finalizing this. It’s been a lot of work and I think we’re very excited to get this done and have this in place this year and in future years,” Pipe said.

According to CentrePeace’s website, Centre County inmates learn valuable job, time management and socialization skills through working at the used household and furniture outlet store. The inmate volunteers are also required to complete the classes “creative non-violent conflict resolution” and “breaking barriers” in which they learn to appreciate others’ points of view, assume responsibility for mistakes and identify and replace destructive patterns of behavior with positive ones.

For more information about CentrePeace, visit www.centrepeace.org.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

— Passed Resolution No. 6 of 2020, which approves the financing Centre County Hospital Authority of a project for Mount Nittany Medical Center, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation; declaring that it is desirable for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the residents of Centre County and others in the area served by the medical center’s facilities to have the project finance through the authority.

The authority desires to assist the medical center in undertaking a project including: 1. Current refunding of all or a portion of the Series 2012A and all of the Series 2012B bonds 2. Advance refunding, on a taxable basis, all of or a portion of the Series 2012B bonds. 3. Paying certain expenses incurred in connection with the financing. The authority, upon request of the Medical Center, desires to undertake the issuance of hospital revenue bonds, in the aggregate principal amount not to exceed $75 million.

The commissioners will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 3 at the Willowbank Building in Bellefonte.

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