The following article about a unique, and successful, reentry program created by Georgetown, S.C. Sheriff A. Lance Cribb was sent to Reentry Central for consideration for publication. We would like to share it with our readers.
The Best Little Reentry Program in America
By Joe Fee, Secretary of Amazing Journey Inc., an organization of volunteers supporting the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Reentry Services.
Every year over 600,000 people with a felony conviction are released from U.S. prisons. Many of these men are high school dropouts and few have any marketable skills. As a result, over 40 percent are re-incarcerated within three years, and prospects for those who remain free are poor. Men with criminal records account for 34 percent of all nonworking men ages 25 to 54, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll Two major factors driving this result are the strong bias against men with felony convictions and their lack of suitable work skills.
It is clear that without an attractive skill set, the released inmate will have a very difficult time making a living. Sheriff of Georgetown County, S.C., Lane Cribb has formed a partnership with County Director of Public Services Ray Funnye to develop a program that overcomes these barriers.
The Georgetown County Sheriff’s Reentry Services (RES) provides the means for incarcerated men near the end of their sentences to obtain journeyman certification in over 15 trades. In the past ten years over 250 clients have completed their training and none have returned to prison. This program is also remarkable in other ways:
The training program is run by one salaried employee and nine volunteers.
All testing and certification takes place within the Georgetown County Detention Center.
All of the program clients work as apprentices for the Georgetown County Public Services Department to fulfill their training requirements for journeyman certification under expert supervision. This effort saves the county hundreds of thousands of dollars per year over the cost of incarceration and training.
RES clients learn how to write resumes and take interviews. They can interview with prospective employers while still in detention and being hired prior to release is not uncommon. Most released clients find full time employment within six months.
The State of South Carolina permits prisoners with good conduct records to request transfer to other correction facilities within the state near the end of their sentences. The transfer is granted if both the state and receiving facility agree to the request. Georgetown County Detention Center (GCDC) has accepted transfers for a number of years to obtain a very low cost source of unskilled labor. Over the past decade the aim has been to obtain good candidates for the RES. Requests to participate are evaluated to determine suitability, and selected men become clients.
Education and Training
The education program is conducted in the GCDC and has two goals: prepare the client to successfully integrate into society and begin the learning process for the trade he has selected.
Life Skills learning begins with helping clients rehabilitate themselves to societal norms. Through cognitive behavioral therapy sessions clients learn to take responsibility for their offenses, determine the motivating causes and situations that led to past offenses and learn how to prevent future occurrences. They also learn the social skills needed to succeed in gaining employment and fitting into the community. Math and communication skills are taught in the context of work needs and typical transactions in life, e.g., household budgeting.
Clients begin 0n-the-job training under supervisor/mentors in the Georgetown County Public Services Department who teach participants a tradecraft and how to function as an employee. Journeyman certification requires a significant investment of time and effort. In the case of Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) the term of apprenticeship requires 6000 hours of reasonably continuous employment and on-the-job training, supplemented by 432 hours of job related education.
The RES also offers clients the opportunity for self-improvement and personal development. Some complete the requirements for the GED; a Bible study class is popular and there is an art class offered by one of the volunteers. A recent grant for improved library facilities will also provide audio/visual capabilities. Occasional visits by program graduates who are doing well are real morale boosters.
Clients close to the end of their sentences may need help in obtaining personal documentation such as birth certificates and Social Security cards. They also participate in classes to develop resumes and prepare for job interviews which are often scheduled ahead of release. Help in obtaining work clothes, tools and transportation is provided.
Any municipality that can accept individuals with a criminal record into its detention center near the end of their sentences and has a public works organization can replicate our achievement. The benefits for society, the municipality and individuals are there for the taking.
For more information about the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Reentry Services please contact Jason Lesley at firstname.lastname@example.org