Inmate programs expand at County jail

8 years ago
HOULTON, Maine — Reducing recidivism rates among criminal offenders at the Aroostook County Jail was a goal that Sheriff Darrell Crandall said he greatly wanted to achieve after he took office in January 2015.

Working with Jail Administrator Craig Clossey to implement more programs that educate, rehabilitate or support inmates at the facility is one way he is hoping to accomplish his mission. Over the past three years, the jail has increased formal programming numbers significantly, and now has a “packed schedule,” according to Crandall.

“There really isn’t much room in the schedule for anything else,” he said Monday.

Crandall said that there were only two programs being offered to inmates in July 2013, when he was chief deputy of the sheriff’s office, including Alcoholics Anonymous and a weekly church service.

The sheriff said that he and Clossey slowly began increasing the offerings over time for both sentenced inmates and those who had matters pending before the court, or pretrial inmates.

Typically, there are more pretrial inmates. On Monday, for instance, there were 106 inmates at the jail and 80 percent were pretrial, he said.

From the onset, Crandall said, one of the most critical needs identified by jail staffers was the need for non-emergency mental health services. A program that offers such services in now offered to inmates and is paid for through jail funding.

The Hope and Justice Project in Presque Isle also offers a trauma recovery group and another program where they meet with victims of domestic violence, families members and those who are at risk to teach them the signs of domestic violence and how not to expose themselves to future risk.

Several church services take place during the week, he said. Houlton/Hodgdon RSU 29/70 Adult Education also comes in three times a week to provide educational testing. The jail also offers Decisions For Living four times a year, a program that helps inmates make better choices both in and outside of the correctional facility.

Breaking Free, a grant funded residential substance abuse program, offers inmates 90 days of intensive case management upon release back into the community, and the Thinking For A Change Program, helps inmates examine their thoughts and how they react to situations.

Besides the non-emergency mental health and substance abuse programs, Crandall said, all other programs are offered on a volunteer basis by other agencies.

In the future, he also hopes to expand the community works program that is currently going well, in which inmates leave the jail to perform jobs for communities at the request of the municipalities.

Since the majority of the new programs are just being implemented, Crandall said it is too early to tell how successful they will be at keeping inmates from reoffending.

But the sheriff said increasing programming to reduce recidivism was a priority for him.

“It was obvious to all of us that we were seeing the same faces over and over and over again and had been for years,” he said. “Not always, but it seemed like a lot of times it was the same people. We just felt we needed to attack it differently. .”