Texas county jail 1st in state to launch I.G.N.I.T.E. educational program for inmates
The program at the Collin County Sheriff’s Office provides job and life skills training to inmates to reduce jail violence and recidivism
By Bill Carey
COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — The Collin County Jail is the first jail in Texas to take part in a program designed to reduce jail violence and recidivism by providing education and training that will be of immediate use to inmates when they are released from jail.
County jail inmates have long had access to educational programs like GED certification, but I.G.N.I.T.E. is different. The acronym stands for Inmate Growth Naturally and Intentionally through Education, NBC DFW reported.
I.G.N.I.T.E. was launched by Sheriff Chris Swanson of the Genesee County Jail in Michigan.
The National Sheriff’s Association has helped county jails replicate Swanson’s program. It offers in-depth educational opportunities, job and life skills training, job certification and even matches inmates with potential employers.
“What if, instead of playing chess and dominoes every day, all day, that time is spent on learning better life skills?” asked Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner.
Skinner traveled to Michigan to see the program at work: “I saw it. It was quieter than a library in there with many dozens of inmates doing their work on their tablets. I took the time to talk to those guys and to visit with them and to understand it was indeed a culture change in that jail and that’s what I want to do here.”
While state and federal prison systems often offer advanced educational programs, the programs available in county jails are limited.
“Ninety percent of the people that are in this facility at this very moment are going to be released and go home, so our attitude is, why would we use that to everyone’s advantage and theirs in order to make the community safer?” asked Skinner. “If I can work with people who are confined here in the detention center and help teach them life skills to help them be successful when they leave here, they’ll go back to their communities and make good neighbors, good husbands and fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters. That’s going to help make our communities safer.”
The program will not be offered to inmates considered to be a high-security risk or those accused of severe crimes.
“Listen, you have to look hard in my jail to find someone who knows how to balance a checkbook and it shouldn’t be that way,” said Skinner. “We should be teaching people skills that when they leave here, they have the confidence and the ability to manage their own resources.”