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Educate Rather Than Incarcerate

The Sheriff Speaks

Helpful tips from Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul

Educate Rather Than Incarcerate

My law enforcement career spans over more than three decades. During that time, I have witnessed many people turn their lives around. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed many people who seem to be stuck in a dreadful cycle of bad choices, followed by jail and prison. In fact, the last recidivism study conducted at the jail showed that over 76% of the inmates had been in jail at least three times. We needed to find out why.

Our study showed that there were four primary reasons why a person becomes a recidivist. The first reason is due to a substance abuse problem. We began to address this by offering substance abuse education for inmates. The second reason is due to mental health issues. We now have a contract with Phoebe which includes psychiatric services and medications. The third reason was a general disconnect with resources available in the community. We now actively work with the Southwest Georgia Re-entry Coalition to help those returning to the community from jail or prison to find employment, housing, transportation, and other resources so that they can be successful. The fourth reason was chronic under-education. A very high percentage of inmates do not have their high-school diploma and therefore cannot attain meaningful employment. We began offering GED classes to inmates through an agreement with Albany Technical College.

Helping inmates to attain their GED diploma is the right thing to do, but there are issues to be overcome. Books, materials and testing fees for the GED program are expensive. If the inmates had to pay these expenses, they would not be able to participate. We have had to rely on donations from the community in order to pay all of the expenses for the program since we cannot charge this to the taxpayers.  However, now the funds are low and we are in danger of losing this valuable program.

Contributing in order for an inmate to get their GED is a way to help change a life for the better. We have seen the pride on an inmate’s face when they received their diploma. We have seen inmates who succeeded in getting their GED begin tutoring other inmates. We have seen an inmate get the first diploma in his family, then help his incarcerated sibling get his too. Their success inspires them to do something better with their lives. This GED program helps make the community stronger and safer by helping people choose to become productive members of society and contribute to their community. Contributions to the inmate GED fund help with this.

There are many ways to keep a community safe. Whenever possible, I would like to accomplish that through education rather than incarceration. If you feel the same and would like to contribute in order to help the men and women incarcerated in the Dougherty County Jail get their GED diploma and turn their lives around, please send your donations to the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office, 1302 Evelyn Avenue, Albany, GA, 31705. Make sure to notate that the donation is for the “Inmate GED Fund”. Thank you for your consideration and as always, if the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to call us at (229) 431-3259 or (229) 430-6508.