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Southside Regional Jail FACES program - Independent-Messenger: News

Southside Regional Jail FACES program

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Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2016 10:43 am

A program in place at the Southside Regional Jail with a proven record of positive change and financial savings is itself in need of funding.

The Community Model in Corrections program in place at the SSRJ, known locally as the FACES program, is a program designed to, as two of its proponents say, change the culture of incarceration.

The program does this by allowing inmates the opportunity to better themselves and learn positive change by policing each other’s behavior.

“This changes that culture like nothing ever has,” said Morgan Moss, one of the program’s directors. “It changes people.

Inmates allowed into the FACES — Freely Accepting Change Every Second — program at the jail are held to a regimented schedule for all seven days of the week from 6 a.m. until after dinner. Program facilitators Michael McBride and Katherine Keyes visit the facility to ensure the program is being followed, but the inmates are accountable to each other.

The results at the jail have been dramatic in the 10 years the program has been in place, according to numbers the program supplied which were confirmed by jail Superintendent Col. Karen Craig.

According to the program staff, 1,455 men and women entered the jail in 2015 with substance abuse, anger, parenting and life skills challenges. For these inmates, a 50 percent recidivism rate is the expectation, meaning half will return to jail at some point after they are released.

Staff from the Center for Therapeutic Justice administer the program, assisting the “inmates in creating their own community to address matters of behavior, civility and addiction.”

According to the numbers, 1,731 men and women have completed the ongoing, intense program between January 2005 and June 2016, resulting in a less than 14 percent recidivism rate.

Initially, funding for the program came in the form of a federal grant in 2005, then was funded by the District 19 Community Services Board, local funding and non-taxpayer funds from the SSRJ.

Budget cuts have since eliminated those funds.

According to program co-director Penny Patton, it takes $50,000 a year to implement the program at Southside Regional Jail, a jail which has inmates from not just Greensville County and Emporia but from all over the region, including Dinwiddie County, Prince George County and Sussex and Surry Counties.

Inmates who participate in the program do so voluntarily — nobody is ordered into the program — and because they learn such positive change, they become game changers in their own communities with the positive impact they can make on the streets.

Moss said the lowered recidivism rate also gives the program real numbers to use to measure success.

“The recidivism rate is one-third lower than it’s expected to be,” Moss said. “If you do the math you could say this program saves the community $18 million. And not just in Emporia and Greensville County, but everywhere these inmates go when they are released.”

Inmate testimonials suggest those who participate in the program learn respect, feel as if they’re better people and learn to be honest with themselves.

Craig said the program’s impact on the jail culture at SSRJ has been phenomenal. She said because of this program’s success, assaults are dramatically lower, as are incidents with officers. McBride said in the more than 10 years he’s been coming to the jail, he’s only heard of three fights associated with inmates who are involved in the program.

“This increases the safety of my officers and the inmates themselves,” Craig said. “And the whole program is about respect, and I always tell my staff, you have to give respect to get respect. The inmates learn that here.”

However, the program’s funding ran out on June 30, meaning there is a possibility the programming could stop at the facility.

“It has to stay,” Craig said. “It just has to stay.”

Moss agreed, emphatically.

“It’s not an acceptable thought that this isn’t going to continue,” Moss said.

The drive to raise funds is on, with the goal being $100,000 to continue the program for two years. A donation of $4,200 ensures one month for 60 inmates, with $840 helping one inmate for one year. Seventy dollars a month allows one inmate to participate in the program.

Those staffing the program are doing so voluntarily at this point, with everyone involved seeing the drive to raise the funds as a passion project.

“This jail is the best-kept secret in Greensville County,” Keyes said. “And with this program, there’s something beautiful going on inside the barbed wire.”

For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation visit www.communitymodel.org or call 757-561-8907. Donations can be mailed to CMA PO Box 1136, Williamsburg, VA 23187.

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