PA Department of Corrections Certified Peer Specialist Program

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

By Mark Powell

Paying Recovery Forward

A Pennsylvania prison inmate carries a binder with two words on it: “Recycled Trash.” He suffers from severe mental illness and accompanying issues. His life has been a struggle every step of the way -- from being tossed in a trash can as a baby to being forced to eat out of a dog bowl and ultimately feeling completely dehumanized. The inmate says he felt beat down and thrown away -- like trash; something without value.

But he eventually confronted his issues and rose above them, becoming one of the hundreds of inmates who’re helping others as a certified peer specialist (CPS). ‘Recycled trash’ reminds the man that he’s no longer worthless; that, in his words, “I am something, and I’m worth something.”

“It’s an example of results the Pennsylvania Corrections Department’s Certified Peer Specialist program is producing,” says Lynn Patrone, a mental health advocate.