Inmates from the Dauphin County Prison achieved a new milestone: the renovation of a vacant home. Apart from being the first in the city’s history, the activity also helped fight the countywide problem against blight.
2,000+ Hours of Renovation
The inmates transformed a three-bedroom rancher along Centerfield Street in Susquehanna. From being a vacant, blighted home, the house is now back on the market with the price of $129,900.
The county land bank purchased the then-foreclosed property for $78,500, an amount which was acquired from the gaming revenue of Penn National’s Hollywood Casino. According to the Dauphin County Department of Economic and Community Development, Project Brief spent around $20,000 to 25,000 for the renovation’s materials.
The inmates’ effort is part of Project Trade, an initiative started by the Home Builders Institute. The program helps low-risk inmates get back on their feet through pre-apprenticeship experience in home construction.
Local authorities praised the initiative and the inmates’ collective project. Dauphin County Commissioners Chairman Jeff Haste called the project “not only a win for the neighborhood, but for our entire county.” He also stated the benefits of initiatives like Project Trade in helping “offenders turn their life around.”
A Source of Hope
“Instead of just wasting my time in prison I learned new skills and have a lot better prospect when I leave Dauphin County prison. It gives you hope,” commented inmate Jason Sprout about the project.
The inmates learned the ropes of construction on the renovation project. In the case of Sprout, he said he had a hand in the plumbing and electrical works of the property.
Fellow inmate Mark Nissley agreed with the thought. “It gives you hands-on experience,” he said during an interview. His contributions to the renovation included works in the kitchen, bath, and flooring.
HBI instructor Ron Hopkins said pre-apprentice certificates for training in construction were awarded to the inmates who helped with the renovation.
The Fight Against Blight
The rancher is just the first of more attempts to fight blight in the area, said the local authorities. Project Brief has its proverbial eyes set on two dilapidated duplexes along Tuscarora Street in the same township.
Commissioner George Hartwick III, who supervises housing and redevelopment projects in the area, said one property infested with blight “can reduce the value of the other residences on the block by 50%.”
He went on and said that most local governments lack the resources to acquire and demolish these properties, which is why the Project Trade initiative acts as a way to counter this pervasive problem.