Pro­grams That In­spire

Serve Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris­tine Hogge for Serve Daily

From gar­den­ing to con­struc­tion and ev­ery­thing in be­tween, Utah County Jail pro­grams are help­ing in­mates bet­ter in­te­grate with the com­mu­nity one class at a time.

When an in­mate leaves prison, they have im­me­di­ate chal­lenges they have to over­come. Lack of money, ex­tra fees and lim­ited em­ploy­ment all make it dif­fi­cult to get back into a healthy, nor­mal life.

To com­bat this, the Utah County Jail has in­sti­tuted mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent work pro­grams. “If they have good be­hav­ior then they have lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties open up for them,” said Chief Deputy Matthew Higley.

One of these op­por­tu­ni­ties in­cludes work­ing in the jail kitchen and learn­ing new skills. At the jail, there is a paid kitchen staff with cer­ti­fied chefs. To­gether with the in­mates, this kitchen pro­duces about a mil­lion meals every year.

These meals are used for Meals on Wheels to ben­e­fit the se­nior cit­i­zens in the area. While the staff is there to help out, a ma­jor­ity of the work is done by the in­mate kitchen crew.

There is also a pro­gram de­signed to teach the in­mates how to gar­den. They pro­duce thou­sands of pounds of veg­eta­bles that are then used for Meals on Wheels and do­nated to the Food and Care Coali­tion.

These pro­grams and many more like them save the tax­payer money. How­ever, Chief Deputy Higley sees a higher pur­pose in them.

“We hope to get them on their feet so they don’t come back. We want them to feel like they have worth and we want them to have the con­fi­dence in them­selves and their abil­i­ties so that they can change their life and live a pro­duc­tive life.” Each pro­gram is de­signed to give the in­mate skills that they can use in the real world. They also earn a stipend, which can then be used to pay court fees and other nec­es­sary ex­penses at the time of re­lease.

“We’re giv­ing them the op­por­tu­nity to suc­ceed when they’re re­leased from jail,” said Chief Deputy Higley.

While pro­grams like these are seen all across the United States, Higley men­tioned one pro­gram no other jail in the coun­try has. It’s called the Jail In­dus­tries Pro­gram.

This pro­gram al­lows the best be­haved and re­spon­si­ble in­mates to leave the prison dur­ing the work­ing day and do con­tracted work for com­pa­nies.

Many times at the end of their sen­tence, these in­mates will leave with a job of­fer from the com­pa­nies they worked with in the pro­gram. This fresh start has proven ef­fec­tive in help­ing in­mates stay out of jail and lead pro­duc­tive and healthy lives in the com­mu­nity

“They can suc­ceed if they re­ally want to,” said Chief Deputy Higley. And with these pro­grams they do.

Photo: Matt Higley

Par­tic­i­pants in the Utah County Jail gar­den­ing pro­gram.

Photo: Matt Higley

Kitchen work­ers in the Utah County Jail.

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