Wake eyes program to keep inmates from returning to jail
Posted March 28
Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County commissioners want to close the revolving door at the county jail, where inmates are released only to be arrested again a few weeks or months later.
The Board of Commissioners is considering spending about $521,300 to bring back programs cut during the recession under the Inmate Employment and Education Initiative heading.
Two case managers and one re-entry coordinator would provide life skills, such as substance abuse counseling and anger management, along with GED prep courses and vocational training.
To take part in the program, an inmate must be serving a sentence of more than 21 days or be waiting for trial that same amount of time.
"This is not soft on crime. This is not decreasing anybody's sentences," Commissioner Matt Calabria said. "What it's doing is making sure people's time in our jail is as productive as possible."
Sheriff Donnie Harrison said volunteer groups meet with inmates and help where they can, but he said he believes permanent programs would make a difference.
"We don't want to see them coming back," Harrison said. "These people made mistakes. If we can teach them something or they can get something out of these programs, to not come back and live off the taxpayers' money and go out and get a job, then yes, we've accomplished something."
Calabria said the expense of the program, which might come from the county's share of local liquor sales, is a drop in the bucket when compared with the more than $28.1 million a year that the county spends to house inmates in the jail.
"This is the smart thing to do," he said. "By investing a little bit upfront, we decrease recidivism, and we save taxpayers money in the short and long run."