Jail Programs Prepare Inmates

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

December 2, 2005

Nearly 650,000 people are released from jail and arrive on the doorsteps of communities each year. In Charlottesville, jail officials are doing more than most jails to prepare inmates for returning to society.

In Charlottesville, jail officials are doing more than most jails to prepare inmates for returning to society.

"For getting us on the track of thinking correctly, thank you," said an inmate at reentry program graduation Friday.

Sixteen inmates graduated from the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail's reentry program.

The reentry program is just one of 27 programs that the jail offers inmates to help them live a productive life.

"Once they go out on the street they have choices and they have options," said Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail Superintendent Colonel Ronald Matthews.

Work programs are common in jails and prisons but what's uncommon about this jail is the amount of programs they offer inmates. Twelve new programs have been added in just the last year since Col. Matthews was hired.

Jail ministry programs help inmates change their negative behavior.

"I don't use as much bad language. I get up early in the morning. I stay up. I study. I'm going to get my G.E.D. and I stay in contact with my family," said inmate Jared Martin.

Other programs prepare inmates for life on the outside. Some learn to speak English while others take art classes or learn to cook.

"They are eligible and do have the skills to start off as an assistant to a chef," said Culinary Arts teacher Dolores Johnson.

Inmates who take part in these program are less likely to re-offend when their on the streets and while they are in jail it also affects their behavior.

"The inmates are more occupied with attending classes and learning a skill, learning a trade, so the frustration part is down and we have less disciplinary problems," said Matthews.

"It makes my job a whole lot easier," said a jail guard.

Participation is optional. There's over 440 inmates incarcerated at the jail and only about half take part in the classes. But for those who do, jail officials say, it has an impact.

"I see real differences and real positive changes and I think they see that in themselves as well," said Programs Coordinator Phyllis Back.

The jail is monitoring the success of its new programs and hopes to have some statistics on the impact the classes are having on inmates some time next year.

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