The St. Charles County Department of Corrections is launching educational and behavioral programs to better prepare inmates for release. The new programming began at the jail on March 9 with High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) testing available for inmates.
“Inmates now have the opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills so that when they are released, they stand a better chance of not returning,” says Dan Keen, Director of Corrections. “We want to give them every opportunity for success after incarceration that we can.”
HiSET classes are held virtually for 10 weeks and then inmates take the HiSET exam. Passing this exam demonstrates academic knowledge and proficiency equivalent to that of a high school graduate. For many inmates, this serves as an opportunity to obtain better employment, as the HiSET diploma/certificate is accepted by employers and accredited colleges throughout the United States. Currently, 16 inmates are enrolled in the program. If they are released before completing it, they can continue studying through a local HiSET site.
“When inmates are able to obtain employment, they become more motivated and recidivism decreases,” Keen says.
To further assist inmates with getting employment and preparing them for release, the Corrections Department soon will be rolling out the following programs:
- Life Skills – Teaches inmates how to fill out job applications, create an effective resume, learn interview techniques, and more.
- Respect for Others Classes – Assists in building moral character and respect for others through a 12-week, cognitive behavior program.
- Medicated Assisted Treatment Services (MAT) – Helps inmates who have drug addiction issues.
- Book Club – Encourages literacy and helps develop empathy, listening skills, and self-awareness.
- Classes for Women – Helps develop coping skills, especially for those separated from their children.
Programming begins at intake where inmates are given a questionnaire to determine their program needs and wants. A Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI) is administered to the inmates and then programming is coordinated by the department’s program specialist and case managers. The classes will be facilitated by the program specialist and other staff members have shown interest in filling in where needed. Keen says as the programs grow, they will be looking for qualified volunteers to assist as well.
During COVID, the St. Charles County Jail has had an average daily population of about 270 inmates. Keen says the average stay is 56 days.
“Approximately 95 percent of our inmate population will be returning to our neighborhoods,” Keen says. “They may be our neighbors, friends or a loved one. Our mission is to make these individuals better equipped to be in society and to make them employable once they leave our facility.”