Criminal justice student helping design program for state prison inmate re-entry

Richard Obermeyer web

   A junior criminal justice major is getting a glimpse of graduate school life while serving as a research assistant on two projects. 

            Richard Obermeyer of Bradford is helping conduct research for Dr. Tony Gaskew, associate professor of criminal justice, on two projects. The first is a project to develop a prisoner re-entry blueprint for state prison inmates who will be returning to McKean County. The second is to help with research on a book Gaskew has planned on prison re-entry.

            Last spring, Gaskew, in conjunction with Theresa Wilcox, director of the McKean County Juvenile Probation Department, received a $10,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for the McKean County Offender Re-entry Planning Project.

            Gaskew said he applied for the grant, which runs from October 2012 to October 2013, knowing that hundreds of hours of research would be required and with Obermeyer in mind as a student capable of that work.

            Obermeyer already had experience with prison re-entry programs, having worked on them while an intern at the Federal Correctional Institution – McKean last summer.

            There he worked with two other criminal justice students, Kyle Yeager of Bear Lake and 2012 graduate David Kunkle, to design courses for inmates nearing the end of their sentences. They also designed a resource book and taught inmates how to obtain a driver’s license, Social Security card, library card and other necessities upon release. That information is coming in handy for his current project, some of which he has been able to modify for a more localized area.

As part of his research, Obermeyer is interviewing dozens of people involved with the prison, probation and social service communities, including the McKean County Commissioners, District Attorney, Sheriff and probation officers.

            He also conducted a literature review – a standard first step in research to see what research already exists on the subject.

            All of that research, interviewing and transcribing is adding up to hundreds of hours in the library and hundreds of hours of graduate-level research experience for Obermeyer, Gaskew said.

            “It’s a great experience. He has a much more thorough understanding of research methods,” Gaskew said.

            With one federal internship already under his belt and a recommendation from FCI McKean’s warden, Bobby Meeks, Obermeyer landed a second federal internship with the U.S. Marshal Service in Washington, D.C., this summer. Currently a junior, he has his eye set on attending the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs for a master’s degree in human security.

            When all the literature is reviewed, interviews taken and transcribed, Obermeyer’s work will help Gaskew design a plan for prisoner re-entry aimed at reducing recidivism.

            “It’s nice to have research in the field that will be used,” Obermeyer said.

            For more information on the criminal justice program at Pitt-Bradford, contact Gaskew, who also directs the program, at (814)362-7636 or