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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Imagine being a teenager waking up in a prison for the rest of your life.

INDIANA COUNTY, Pa. -- Imagine being a teenager and knowing you'd be waking up in a prison for the rest of your life.

That's reality for two young convicted murderers from Lancaster County.

Alec Kreider and David Ludwig are serving life sentences.

They will likely spend a good portion of their time at the Pine Grove State Prison -- a facility designed specifically for young adult offenders.

Rigid Structure Means Early Days

At Pine Grove State Prison in Indiana County, the day begins early. The inmates get up at 6 a.m., and are served breakfast by 6:30 a.m.

Each day is virtually identical for the 300 young adult offenders who live in the prison.

David Ludwig, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend's parents in Lancaster County, is one of them.

The young men follow a strict, military-like regiment.

According to prison officials, many of them have never had structure in their lives. So, when they first arrive at the prison they are put through a leadership development program, similar to a boot camp initiative.

The young men live in tiny cells. There's nothing on the walls and their personal belongings have to fit in a locker.

They are not allowed to have much.

The men are expected to earn their privileges, just like any other teenager.

Education Important In Pine Grove Prison

They will spend most of the morning doing school work. Eventually, they'll finish high school and can take some community college courses.

Most do job training.

The young men can be taught a wide range of skills -- from how to clean floors to working with heating and air conditioning equipment.

All around the prison, there are constant reminders that these are criminals.

In the classrooms, every tool needs to be in place and every person needs to be accounted for.

"We are first, and above all, a prison, which means we count them constantly to make sure everyone stays where they are. That we know where everyone is and that they are acting in a way we would expect a prisoner to act," said superintendent Joseph Mazurkiewicz.

Free time comes in the afternoon.

There are opportunities to exercise outside, play basketball in the gym or play games.

Some inmates choose to stay in their cell and watch the limited cable television that's offered.

The day ends by 9 p.m.

Rehabilitation Is The Ultimate Mission

It's the same every day, for every inmate. Whether they are at Pine Grove for a few years or for their entire lives.

David Ludwig is facing a life sentence.

"It's almost strange, but when they first get here and they have a life sentence, it's almost like it doesn't sink in to them yet. They haven't come to the realization that they very possibly will never leave an institution," said Don Bachota, the prison's program manager.

It usually hits them within the first few weeks.

"All of a sudden the light bulb goes off and they realize it. It's very hard and we have psychologists, psychiatrists and everybody constantly working with them," said Bachota.

Some continue to struggle at the thought of spending a lifetime in prison. Others try to help their other inmates.

That is the mission of the Pine Grove Prison and those who run it.

"If you can help one person, if there's one young adult offender that you can get to see the light, then that's one less person that can make a victim of someone out in the world," said Bachota. "And you never know if that one person you're protecting could be your own family or friend."

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