State promises no violent criminals, sex offenders at Sharon halfway house

SHARON, Pa. (WYTV) – The Sharon Community Corrections Center housed in the old Sawmill Mansion on W. State Street will no longer house violent criminals or sex offenders, according to a letter sent to the city’s police chief.

It’s something Chief Gerald Smith has been pushing for a while now. He’s been talking with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) about the community’s concerns about the inmate halfway house in its backyard.

In the letter, the DOC says they will be changing the housing policies at the halfway house no later than July 1.

Smith said it’s been a long time coming.

“They have assured me in writing that there’s no sex offenders coming back to that facility.”

The DOC plans to implement a “State Intermediate Punishment” (SIP). It’s designed for people convicted of mostly low-level drug-related offenses, but the facility will also house parolees should beds become available.

The program basically excludes offenders convicted of violent or sexual offenses, including any lesser offenses that involved the use of a deadly weapon.

“The channels of communication between me and Director Little of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections are wide open. We’re gonna continue to talk, we’re gonna continue to brainstorm,” Smith said.

Warehouse Sales sits just a block away from the halfway house. Last weekend, surveillance video captured a man — who turned out to be a re-entrant staying at the Sharon CCC — blowing smoke behind the business’ dumpster.

Owner Michael Lisac and his employees were thrilled to hear the DOC will be making changes to the halfway house.

“Being that we’re doing something to solve the problem, I think it makes the town look good because we do take care of the issues and the police do a good job of taking care of that sort of stuff,” Lisac said.

Jim Neil, an employee at Warehouse Sales, said they’ve been dealing with issues from the halfway house’s residents for the past ten years.

“Glad to see something’s finally getting done with it. Kinda puts me at a peace of mind. I know Michael doesn’t want to pay me to sit back there and watch the cameras.”

Even so, some Sharon residents who live near the facility said they’ve never been bothered.

“It’s always been quiet. They come down and do their thing. There’s never been no ruckus,” Charlene Lauderman said.

Chief Smith thinks the City of Sharon and the DOC will work together toward the long-term solution of relocating the halfway house.

“This is a needed service and I think that there’s a win-win for both the city and the DOC,” he said.

Smith said his officers, along with Sharon’s city manager, drove around the city with George Little, the Director of Bureau Community Corrections, and showed him several properties they think will be good places to move the Sharon CCC. Those details remain under discussion for now.