Sharon wants to move inmate halfway house away from elementary school

SHARON, Pa. (WYTV) – The City of Sharon is stepping in to attempt to move a halfway house, which has been housing sex offenders, away from an elementary school and churches nearby.

Down the street from Sharon’s shops and businesses is one of the state’s halfway houses for inmates. It currently houses and monitors 36 people that were in jail and are now trying to get jobs in Sharon.

West Hill Elementary School sits just behind it. Across the house are four churches.

“The concern, as far as the police were concerned, were the violent criminals and the sex offenders, and I think being that close to a grade school, it did raise some concerns with the public,” said Sharon Police Chief Gerald Smith.

This week, Smith contacted the state about the concerns regarding three sex offenders living in the house on W. State Street. When he went to the house Monday morning to check, he learned they were finally moved to another facility.

It still raised concerns about how the halfway house will affect the city’s growth.

“We have new commercial buildings going up, and we have a lot of renovation, and Penn State is doing wonderful things and they’re on the cuff of expansions, but that property has become a road block,” said City Manager Bob Fiscus.

He said the house is a deterrent for developers.

“They’ve all said, ‘Well, we can’t relocate in proximity to this because you have a prison, or you have sexual offenders or violent criminals that stay at this site.'”

Ed Lisac and his son own a store next to the halfway house.

“The people from the halfway house may go and help somewhere in the city, but they’re causing a lot more problems than they are good,” Lisac said.

He said it doesn’t seem like the people living there are actually being rehabilitated.

The United Way owns the house, which is rented out by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

Smith said there is a need for a facility like this, but its current location is troubling.

Fiscus hopes he can work with the United Way to find another use for the building.

“Maybe we can sit down and partner with some economic development corporations, and the chamber of commerce, and all of the wonderful things and see if we can market that property to another entity,” he said.

In the meantime, Smith said he is going to continue closely monitoring who’s living there.

33 WYTV News also reached out to the United Way to see if discontinuing its lease with the state is something the organization would do, but they haven’t returned any phone calls.

The Sharon Department of Corrections released the following statement after the story aired:

Community Corrections provides a valuable service to returning citizens by allowing them opportunity to transition safely back into the community.  We work with reentrants to gain sustainable employment and permanent housing, while providing structure and accountability. Residents and their property are searched each time they enter the center and given a breathalyzer test.  Residents are subject to daily curfew and room inspections as well as regular property searches and drug testing.  Residents earn time out of the center based on their employment, outpatient treatment, appointments, and volunteer hours.  Outpatient treatment is coordinated for three specific populations (sex offender, mental health, and Alcohol and Other Drugs) as mandated by the PBPP.  DOC and PBPP work with outpatient treatment providers to ensure compliance and intervention as necessary.  Residents of the Sharon CCC completed over 500 hours of community service each month in 2016. Some of the notable community services sites are Sharon City Building, Waterfire, local churches, Salvation Army and Career Links.  Sharon CCC  has a 70-75% employment rate. Once the resident secures employment, Sharon CCC ensures the residents are paying court cost, fines and restitution fees. Approximately 50% of the residents are on State Intermediate Punishment which is a flat 2 year diversionary sentence.  Nearly half of the 25 residents are from Mercer County. The other residents are from the surrounding counties.

Ninety percent of incarcerated individuals return to the community one day, regardless of the crimes for which they were sentenced. When they enter the DOC they are evaluated for appropriate treatment programming that is to be provided to them prior to their release. There are sex offenders who require transfer through a community corrections center. These individuals are highly supervised as they work to rebuild family support, find jobs and pay taxes, with goal of successful transition to community. People transition through community corrections centers ev