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Criminal justice students, author hold book discussion at county pre-release center

Criminal justice students, author hold book discussion at county pre-release center

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Lycoming College students in Dr. Kerry M. Richmond’s Correctional Policy course partnered with the Lycoming County Pre-Release Center to hold a book discussion group on Thursday, April 4, with the female residents.

The discussion was about the book, “Grace Goes to Prison: An Inspiring Story of Hope and Humanity,” by Melanie G. Snyder, who also attended the event.

The nonfiction book is about a 37-year-old homemaker and former Avon lady named Marie Hamilton, who started visiting a group of prison inmates with one simple idea: to look for and affirm the good in them. In the 30 years that followed, she expanded that vision, creating unique programs to educate, empower and support inmates to be successful when paroled. Her volunteer work has challenged conventional wisdom about how to deal with criminals. She’s had no formal education in criminal justice, yet her programs have become an integral part of Pennsylvania’s prison system. She became a tireless advocate for restorative justice and alternatives to incarceration.

Snyder is the executive director of the Lancaster County Re-entry Management Organization, an initiative in Pennsylvania to improve community safety by helping people transitioning out of prison to become productive citizens and remain crime-free. She is a National Institute of Corrections-certified Offender Workforce Development Specialist who teaches college writing courses, teaches conflict resolution skills to community, school and faith groups, and speaks regularly to a variety of audiences about restorative justice, criminal justice and related topics.

After “Grace Goes to Prison” was published, Snyder traveled throughout the United States, doing speaking engagements and meeting with other re-entry and restorative justice professionals to discuss criminal justice issues and exchange information and ideas.

Snyder was a guest speaker in Richmond’s class the next day, where she discussed the issue of re-entry with the students and how they need to learn to work with those who commit crimes and complete their incarceration. She spoke to the class about positive community involvement within the re-entry and pre-release process. During the class, students discussed the book and how it related to current prison policies.

Richmond said that beginning last semester, the College’s department of criminal justice-criminology has been partnering with the Pre-Release Center to hold a book discussion group with the female residents.  Last semester, the discussion was on “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.

“The book discussion groups are a way for our department to organize programming for the residents in the Pre-Release Center,” Richmond said. “In addition, it is a great opportunity for both students and residents to engage with and learn from each other. It has been an amazing experience for all involved.”

Lycoming College is a four-year, residential liberal arts and sciences school dedicated to the undergraduate education of 1,400 students. Its rigorous academic program, vibrant residential community and supportive faculty foster successful student outcomes. Lycoming offers 36 academic majors and is recognized as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1812 and located near the banks of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming is one of the 50 oldest colleges in the nation. For more information, visit

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