On its own initiative, the Bannock County Jail has started a number of classes to keep inmates from returning, and hopes the idea could catch on at other county jails.
Jail officials said having someone sit in a concrete box with nothing to do works plenty well for punishment, but maybe not as well for rehabilitation.
“I would think that anyone would rather see them learning something while they’re in jail, or having the advantage to learn something, rather than just sitting around watching TV,” Bannock County Jail Administrator Cpt. Ellie Peterson said.
Of course, money’s tight and Peterson said a lack of funds had other jails get rid of programs.
“A lot of the jails have cut back on their programming because of the funds and things like that. But we found a way to pay for things out of the inmate commissary,” Peterson said.
The program isn’t court ordered, inmates have to volunteer, but those in charge of the program say the classes are easily filled.
“It seems to get people’s attention, and I can see them thinking, through what they share, that they’re getting something out of it,” clinical counselor Robert DeWall said.
Aaron Edgley is one of those inmates who volunteered for a class.
“I took this program because I needed some change in my life. I needed to find ways to improve myself,” Edgley said.
The goal of these classes is to help give inmates the skills and tools they may need to never return to jail again. Of course, it’s hard to measure just what kind of impact this kind of program makes.
“You can’t say that they’re never going to come back, but at least you can say we’re doing something,” Peterson said.