Many youth struggle with being on the right path in life. It is easy to get swept up in street gangs, violence and drugs when that’s all their family knows and when they are not supported as children should be. The world is a hard place and many lives go in the wrong direction, like Dyjuan Tatro’s did. He dropped out of high school around the 10th grade to sell drugs and a few years later was sentenced to prison for assault. This is just one of the many stories you hear about a juvenile’s life taking a turn for the worse. However, he was able to turn it around by finishing his education while incarcerated.

The Politico published an article about the high recidivism rates in the United States and how we have the answer to solving this problem at the tip of our fingers, educating incarcerated individuals. In the United States, individuals who are released from prison often return to a life of crime and have a hard time turning their lives around once incarcerated. PEW found in a study that in 23 states, 37% of released individuals in 2012 returned to prison within three years and 46% released in 2010 returned to prison within five years. Recidivism is an issue as many individuals in prison did not finish school and lack the resources and support to return to life once they are released.

Access to schooling and receiving an education is slowly increasing in prison systems. A correlation has been found between those who complete their education while incarcerated and lower recidivism rates. Fewer than 3% of graduates of Bard Prison Initiative in New York, returned to prison compared to over 30% of individuals released from the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision returning to prison. Providing an education for incarcerated individuals helps them get back on their feet and sets them up for success when released, which reduces recidivism and saves public funds that would be spent looking after people in jail or prison.

However, having access to an education was difficult until the Department of Education announced its Second Chance Pell Pilot Program in 2015. “By expanding educational opportunities for some people behind bars, the program aimed to help individuals returning home acquire work, financially support their families and claim a second chance for a better life.” The program only currently allows around 10,000 students to receive funding to attend classes at certain institutions, turning away hundreds of thousands who are eligible for the funding. If the number of individuals allowed to receive funding increased, recidivism rates would go down drastically as many would have the opportunity to receive an education while incarcerated.

Thankfully, in July, lawmakers introduced legislation to repeal the Pell Grant ban in July. There are many success stories like Dyjuan Tatro’s but also so many that slip through the cracks who could benefit from receiving an education while incarcerated. It reduces recidivism and can make or break an individual’s life when it comes to supporting themselves once released.


Community Supervision, Jail Overcrowding

Bristol Herald Courier recently highlighted how Sullivan County’s pretrial release program looks promising. Pretrial release is becoming a new norm as jails shift from having people just sitting in jail to being on house arrest or electronic supervision. So far, Sullivan County has had success in their pretrial release program as individuals have been compliant and friendly according to Officer Brandon Ferrell. The program was created the prior year in an effort to help reduce overcrowding, as Sullivan County jail was ranked the most overcrowded large jail in the state in 2019. The program is managed by two teams, with five officers working out of the office at the jail determining who can be released and preparing them for it and then the other team works in the community checking in on the released individuals.

With COVID-19 continuing to influence jail populations, more and more individuals have been selected for the program, with 91 being released in March, totaling 165 individuals released since January. Judges have been more inclined to release individuals during these times knowing the program is in place and has showed positive results. They are pushing to release individuals to reduce overcrowding in facilities and to keep facilities compliant with safety protocols in place for COVID-19. In one way, the pandemic has instigated positive change in the jail because it has pushed judges to trust the program and not hesitate on releasing individuals into supervision.

“Once you get in the [criminal justice] system, it’s so hard to get out,” Officer Ferrell said. “We’ve got to do something to help people that can’t seem to get back on track.” 

TRACKtech was created to do just this. It is imperative that individuals in the criminal justice system receive more support to get back on their feet and stay out of the system, as it is very hard to do. Rehabilitative measures need to be taken instead of punitive as they are proving to be more successful. TRACKphone provides this support through rehabilitative programs and resources on the phone. TRACKcase provides officers the ability to check in with individuals remotely through biometric identification and video conferencing, as well as has real time location monitoring and geofencing capabilities so officers can easily check on them. The phone also has calendar and appointment reminder capabilities, so individuals are less likely to miss appointments or court dates because they forgot about them. TRACKtech provides an alternative solution to individuals being in jail and taking up resources, time and risking exposure to COVID-19, all while allowing officers to monitor them efficiently and safely.


Public Safety
An article posted by Corridor News addresses issues surrounding homelessness and recidivism rates in the Austin community. “The Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) has facilitated dramatic reductions in repeat offenses among individuals experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable populations”. The Court is aiming to help reduce these issues by showing compassion and care to individuals, by using a rehabilitative approach instead of incarceration or admitting them to hospitals. This leads to the improvement of the individuals lives and reduces strain on public systems, including jails and health care programs.

The DACC has already seen dramatic reductions according to a recent study. “The analysis of citations issued to a group of 59 individuals experiencing homelessness both before and after their engagement with DACC’s Intensive Case Management program reveals that the number of citations plummeted by 99% from 1,556 before participating in DACC services to just 7 afterward”. The mission of the DACC is to continue to serve individuals experiencing homelessness with person to person contact and a comprehensive approach. They want to create safe and respectful environments for people and to provide them with the help they need.

The DACC program is also working with the Intensive Case Management (ICM) to stop the issuing of fines that lead to arrests or threats of jail time. Instead ICM provides access to support systems and programs for substance abuse, mental health care, peer support, basic needs, and permanent and transitional housing. The case management team is currently working with 122 people to combat homelessness and provide a second chance for them. As the program grows, they are expecting to help more people get back on their feet by providing necessary and basic services to combat homelessness and recidivism.

Public Safety

Times Union recently published an article regarding how the Albany Sheriff’s office is going to help the homeless population. As jail populations have decreased, the Albany County Sheriff’s department is working on creating a new solution to help end homelessness. The program is set to be called the Sheriff’s Homeless Improvement Project and will use an empty tier in one of the jail’s buildings as a transitional housing and one-stop resource for those struggling to find a job, suffering from addiction or mental health issues and living on the streets. The programs for these struggling populations are centered around programs already being implemented in the jail that are offered to inmates. Sheriff Craig Apple states “whatever we can do to release somebody who can be healthy and productive back in the community, [is] our goal here.” They also are focusing on reducing recidivism rates and have already seen a drop as people are not coming back to jail. 

The jail population has been decreasing. In July, there were only 431 inmates , compared to the 1,000 it is able to house. This Albany jail is not the only one seeing a decrease in inmate populations, as the state’s total population in county jails fell over 13% from July 2018 to July 2019. Due to these new programs and the sheriff’s office working on rehabilitating inmates instead of employing a punitive approach, the jail is changing its name, to encompass its new mission; the Albany County Corrections and Rehabilitative Services Center. The jail is partnering with other centers including St. Peter’s Hospital, the Homeless and Traveler’s Aid Society, CDTA and other groups to create the program and build services. 

The homeless program is still in the works and Apple said they are trying to figure out their source of funding for food and housing. The facility will have rules similar to those of shelters and the staff will be civilians from nonprofits and the sheriff’s department. This saves the cost and limited resources of staffing correctional officers in the facility and gearing the workers towards what the population being housed in the facility will need. Apple is hopeful that this new facility and programs will help the homeless population get back on their feet and become functioning members of society again. 


Jail Overcrowding

The Loveland Reporter-Herald recently published an article about authorizing financing for a jail expansion project in Larimer County. A week ago, the Larimer County commissioners voted to issue $75 million in certificates of participation to finance the expansion of Larimer County Jail. It was the final piece of a three-part measure to address issues of overcrowding and community needs. The county will make annual payments over the next 15 years to pay for the expansion project. 

The committee that oversees the jail expansion is focused on creating more space for inmates in the jail to alleviate overcrowding. They also are concerned with creating better rehabilitative processes and programs surrounding mental health, education and substance abuse. The committee fully agrees that these are important matters to be considered and to put money towards but their priority for now is working on providing more space and dealing with issues of overcrowding. The court systems cannot always keep up with the number of cases it has, so people awaiting trial are stuck in jail until they have their hearing, leading to overcrowding. 

With the $75 million budget for renovations and expansion of the jail, the county can improve the overcrowding issue and add to the facility to house more people.