r 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.