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Program allows inmates to apologize to victims - abc27 WHTM

Program allows inmates to apologize to victims

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

It is a chance for both victims and inmates to heal and move on.

The Department of Corrections and the Office of the Victim Advocate are partnering together on the Inmate Apology Bank. The program has been around since 2012, but was recently renamed in hopes of raising more awareness.

The voluntary program allows inmates to apologize to their victims without having direct contact.

"Not every crime victim is going to want to hear from their offender; they may not want to have any interaction, and that is okay. We respect that. So a victim would have to call into our office to be registered with our program," said Jennifer Storm, PA Victim Advocate.

Storm says letters can bring closure.

"I have seen apology letters really aide in healing for crime victims. Oftentimes crime victims have a lot of questions, a lot of whys. Oftentimes those questions never get answered throughout the court process," said Storm. "We are very careful to make sure the letters that are being written are thoughtful and meaningful so we are not giving anything to a victim that could potentially hurt them or harm them further."

Prison officials say inmates also benefit from the program. It gives them a chance to apologize without violating policy that prohibits them from contacting their victims. It also gives them a chance to reflect on what they did and how they can become a better member of society.

"The first step is taking responsibility for what they did and understanding the impact it had on other people," said John Wetzel, PA Secretary of Corrections. "We have 694 inmate letters, we have 173 victims signed up and 30 victims have gotten letters. Obviously there are more letters than victims that are signed up for it. I am really hoping to get more and more people signed up."

Crime victims interested in this program can register by visiting the Office of Victim Advocate website at www.ova.state.pa.us, click on "DOC Inmates," and then on "Inmate Apology Bank," or by calling 1-800-322-4472.

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