After Black Lives Matter progress, Genesee County sheriff wants to bolster jail program

Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 5:27 PM EDT
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(6/24/2020) - The Genesee County Sheriff met again Wednesday with Black Lives Matter leader DeWaun Robinson.

The two reflected on the progress they've made over the last four weeks, when they chose to walk together.

A lot of changes are in the works, but both agree another key is strengthening a program already in place.

Before COVID-19 hit, the Genesee County Sheriff explained they had implemented the IGNITE program inside the jail.

It's an effort to make sure time behind those walls will change their life for the better, not cause a setback.

“And trust me, I'm not taking away you got to pay the consequences for your actions; but while you're paying those and now that you're clean, we have a captive audience,” the Sheriff said. “And as the world continues to push forward, what can we do here to put them back into the world?”

Sheriff Chris Swanson said 5 days a week, for 2 hours a day, inmates will have the opportunity to go to school.

That's the IGNITE program, which stands for Inmate Growth Naturally and Intentionally Through Education.

“Even if they're here for three, four or five months, we have a curriculum based on their time of stay and their ability, and now they choose what classes they can go on,” the Sheriff explained.

The County is in the process of running fiber wire throughout the jail to make sure all 600 tablets can work at the same time.

On the devices, the inmates can access classes helping them obtain their GED or learn a skilled trade.

“Now they are going to get a certificate, where they can go take that to any organization, whether it be private or union, to say, I've got a certificate in this, based on this curriculum and now I'm valuable,” he said.

“I think that's brilliant, you know, if a crime is committed it's connected to a lack of -- so if you know, you've got a lack of resources, lack of money, you might go out and steal right?” Black Lives Matter leader DeWaun Robinson said.

While he is pushing for preventative measures, Robinson said he still likes the idea of getting people back on their feet while behind bars.

“Build a foundation, they take care of the family, then they're more prone to live a positive life, and I am a bear witness to that, I know that, so I'm pushing for that,” Robinson added.

And the Sheriff explained, the program actually creates revenue because the inmates can pay for free time on the tablets, which will in turn pay for their classes.

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