The Henry County Sheriff’s Office and the Morehouse School of Medicine have joined forces to address recidivism among jail detainees in the south metro Atlanta community.
In a pilot program, the historically Black medical school and Henry Sheriff Reginald Scandrett have launched a class for 20 to 25 detainees who are within 180 days of release that teaches everything from job readiness to procuring housing to how access insurance after leaving jail.
The classes, which are open to men and women, run six weeks and detainees will receive certificates of completion from Morehouse School of Medicine upon graduation, the leaders said.
“What we are trying to do here is arm individuals with the tools necessary to navigate the world that might reduce recidivism,” said Joseph “Adrian” Tyndall, dean of Morehouse’s medical school. “It can be daunting to reenter the community.”
Tyndall said the program will also talk to the detainees about their health and help them access care.
The partnership comes as the Henry County Jail faces overcrowding as Scandrett has increased arrests, including executing warrants that were not addressed during the coronavirus pandemic. The jail has room for about 890 detainees but currently houses between 915 and 930 people, Scandrett said.
“My No. 1 goal is addressing recidivism,” Scandrett said. “We want to to address the problems that keep that same people coming into our doors consistently without some type of relative resolve.”
The sheriff’s office partnered initially with Southern Crescent Technical College and the Urban League, specifically to help detainees earn a GED, Scandrett said. About 48% of those arrested in Henry did not finish high school.
The partnership with Morehouse adds a physical and mental health component that, combined with the education, take a holistic approach in combating recidivism, Scandrett said.
“It is important that while these people are unfortunately with me now, that they do not return back to society the same way they were when we got them,” he said.
The program is funded by a grant from Nashville, based healthcare giant WellPath, Morehouse said, and will not cost Henry County. The classes will be held at the Restorative Center, a repurposed portion of Henry’s old jail that Scandrett opened earlier this week.
Detainees will also learn how to weld and operate a forklift as part of the program, the authorities said. And men will learn about fatherhood.
Angelita Howard, an assistant dean at the Morehouse School of Medicine and the program’s designer, said it is critical the that it focuses on the practical issues facing detainees, especially after their release. One of the biggest challenges a detainee may face is how to interview for jobs and how to talk about his or her incarceration.
“If you are going to a job, there is automatically stigma” if you have been incarcerated, she said. “You have to decide how you frame your incarceration so that you don’t feel defeated already going in.”
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