Durham renovates former jail into center for released inmates
Posted January 24, 2011 9:18 p.m. EST
Updated January 25, 2011 5:34 a.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — There are more than 40,000 people incarcerated in the state of North Carolina. Another 100,000 are on probation or parole.
Leaders in the criminal justice system try to keep recidivism low, keeping prisoners from going back to prison once they are released. In Durham, revamping the former jail into a resource center for released inmates re-entering the community is one step toward that goal.
The renovations started in January 2010 and ended in October. Durham County leaders hosted an open house of the facility Monday.
"Instead of locking people up, now it's a facility to help people stay free," said deputy director of the center Jo Iverson.
The Durham County Criminal Justice Center is a 40,600-square-foot building in the heart of downtown Durham. At 326 E. Main St., it is housed in the building that used to contain the Durham County jail.
After $4 million in construction, the center is providing rehabilitative services to former inmates, including job and life counseling. Several parts of the building were totally gutted and rebuilt using energy-efficient materials.
In addition to services for former inmates, the center supports the justice system at large with supervision of high-risk offenders in Durham and the collection of criminal and treatment histories, county officials said.
For Drew Doll, a former inmate, the center was the only place he had to turn.
"The CJRC gave me a safe place to live, gave me food, gave me transportation, helped me with clothing," Doll said. "It's just a great way to get back into the community, to build friendships again, to feel like a normal human being again, and not like a convict."