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Jails to Jobs: Madison County

Judge Don Allen’s courtroom. Normally this room is filled with people being put on trial for there crimes but at this moment it’s serving a different purpose.

It is the scene of celebration for fifteen men. They are the latest graduating class from the Madison County jail’s life healing choices program. The program has made an impact these men have experienced a program that has changed their life’s path.

“I just learned that I can’t do it by myself, that’s the biggest key man.”

A route that Madison County Sheriff John Meher says most likely does not include a return visit to the jail. Many of the other inmates in Madison County face a different reality according to the county’s recidivism or repeat offenders rate.

“If you go back and look at the last few years we’re at eighty one to eighty five percent, which is really high.”

Sheriff Mehr knows this is a major problem that needs addressing but for the Sheriff’s department.

it can be hard to make a significant impact since they don’t know how long most their inmates will be there

“when you’re dealing with pre-trial, there is no idea how long people are going to be there. They may be there two days, they may be there fifty to sixty days.”

For the inmates that have been able to take part in the programs, they seem to have been changed for the better.

“I believe that if I apply what I learned in this class I will not be incarcerated here or anywhere else again.”

By knowing the success some of their programs have had, the department wants to expand their options they offer inmates.

"Work on a GED, some other programs, how to manage money how to budget."

But the sheriff's department isn’t able to offer much beyond what they have at the moment due to space.

“Judge Allen lets us have his courtroom on Fridays because we have no meeting places, we have no other place to do any training or anything in the facility we’re in.”

The department is working on improving the capacity for the new jail

"In what we're designing, we are trying to put program areas in each day room where we can offer up a little bit more."

Reducing the number of repeat offenders in the jail is not an overnight fix, but Sheriff Mehr knows that it helping these inmates will help the community.

"We want them to be successful when they go out, because if they are successful they won't be coming back to jail and that helps everyone."

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