Story by Debbi Casini Klein | Audio edited by Louis D’Aria
Caitlin Werth is the chaplain and program director of the rehabilitative program HOPE at the Allegheny County Jail. The program helps inmates stay out of jail once they’ve done their time.
Caitlin’s childhood dreams of becoming a ballerina certainly took quite a different turn … after college, and while in seminary school, she took a class trip to the Allegheny County Jail, which changed everything.
She felt a calling to help those inmates, so she accepted a job as their chaplain and program director of the HOPE program, which consists of eight weeks of classes that help teach life skills and core values to inmates so they can be productive citizens when they go back to the outside world.
“All the experiences in my life with people loving me, and all the things that happened in my life just made me want to be with people who don’t feel loved,” Caitlin said. “I think that’s really the root of a lot of the problems in the world — when somebody doesn’t feel loved, they aren’t able to be successful.”
The HOPE program includes classes in anger management, addiction and recovery, parenting, spiritual formation and victim awareness.
Devin, an inmate at the Allegheny County Jail who is doing time for simple assault and will be out soon, said Caitlin has inspired so many to turn their lives around, including him.
“Before I even came to jail, I really didn’t have too much hope in myself, let alone hope to pass along to anybody else,” he said. “But just after everything that I got from Caitlin, I now have enough hope to spread to not only my parents, but my children as well.”