Community-First Prison Ministry


The Community-First Service Program is an outreach of compassion for those who are incarcerated and/or considered offenders. Its mission is to provide visitation, reading materials, counseling, and an opportunity to change or modify behavioral and academic skills. Those participating in the program will be linked to opportunities consisting of:

• Rebuilding our sense of Community
• Restoring Community Direction
• Renewing our Commitment to the Generations
• Reclaiming our Place in the World
• Purpose of Youth Intervention Program

“The Community-First Service Program” is a youth program, which targets drug free, unemployed and underemployed male and female youth between ages 16 to 25. It is designed as an intervention program rather than punitive. The program’s mission is to provide work skills and alternative learning opportunities to meet the unique individual needs of students in order to increase positive behavioral and academic skills. The student is better prepared for success and transition to his or her next learning or work environment by promoting learning, goal setting and self-image building.

This 17 1/2-month program consists of three distinct phases. First is a 2 wk Pre-Service Phase. This is the trial period in which each youth is given a chance to prove his or her commitment to the program. For those who pass the Pre-Service Phase next comes the 20 week Community Service Residential Phase. Both of these residential phases take place at the Community Service Training and Education Facility (CSTEF) in Philadelphia, Pa. The third is the post-residential or Mentorship Phase which begins during the residential phase and continues for one year after the youth successfully completes the residential phase.

The youth have four educational options in the program: GED, High School credits, Trade development or College Prep and must make this choice in the first week that they are enrolled. The critical work ethic portion of the program teaches the youth to accept work assignments, which vary in scope and length. During the residential phase, youth are in the classroom for ½ of each week and doing work projects for the remainder of the week. These assignments are designed to foster initiative, flexibility, creativity, and leadership. These important skills are reinforced so that they are understood and incorporated by the youth as part of their work ethic no matter what the task. Youth are exposed to a variety of agencies while working on work projects.

The “Community-First Service” Program is a motivational, yet physically challenging style program and environment. Core components consist of physical fitness, health, nutrition, life coping skills, responsible citizenship, educational excellence, job skills, and community service and leadership development.

Vision Statement:

Create economic value and self-worth, long term productivity and civic responsibility for Pennsylvania’s youth through a highly structured, non-traditional, motivation –school model.
Challenge youth to embrace change as a necessary means to reach their full potential
Challenge youth to have confidence in themselves and their abilities
Mission Statement:

To facilitate the personal growth and achievement for youth by providing a highly structured environment that integrates diversity and connectivity into an educational and unified life-changing experience.
To strengthen the significance of underdeveloped youth
To help youth understand their importance
To develop long-term partnership between Community and youth
To preserve the connection between youth and their roots/identity in an increasingly globalized world
Young people want support. The majority of young people cite parents or other adults as the first source of advice regarding personal problems. There was a time when our society was made up of extended families and close communities. Aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends often served naturally as mentors. While families bear the primary obligation to care for their children and to help them become healthy contributing citizens, other institutions can help families acclimate to a rapidly changing world. A mentor can provide the nurturing, supportive adult relationship absent in the lives of many of our young people. Adolescents today are an increasingly isolated population. Changes in the structure of the family, community, neighborhood, relationships and in workplace arrangements have deprived young people of the adult contacts that historically have been primary sources of socialization and support for development. Many young people lack nurturing and supportive primary adult relationships. A mentor can provide that role, and perhaps more importantly, teach and guide the young person to find others to fill that role as well.