Sheriff Jim Skinner wants to reduce recidivism rates among Collin County jail inmates by offering a program where they can learn better life skills, improve their education and learn a trade.
“Too often, we see generations of a family stuck in that vicious cycle of incarceration, release and recidivism,” Skinner said at the meeting held at the Collin County Detention Center last month.
The sheriff announced to those in attendance his commitment to adopt a program called IGNITE, or Inmate Growth Naturally and Intentionally Through Education, which has been implemented in other states and has proven successful in educating inmates before being released from county jails.
Skinner said he first learned about the program from its founder, Sheriff Chris Swanson, at a meeting last summer of the National Sheriffs Association, a nonprofit that represents 3086 sheriffs across the U.S.
Swanson started the program in the Genesee County Jail in Michigan in 2020, and since then, he’s reported success in terms of reducing conflicts and improving re-entry opportunities.
After seeing Swanson speak about the program, Skinner said he flew to Michigan to attend one of the sheriff’s IGNITE graduations. While at the jail, Skinner asked Swanson to take him up to the pods where he sat down and talked to the inmates.
“I couldn’t believe the difference,” he said, between Swanson’s program participants and what he sees at the Collin County Jail. “What I instantly saw was hope,” he added. “And I saw people that were accepting responsibility for the things that they had done, and it was it was pretty amazing.”
“Statistics tell us that about 90% of the folks that are in this jail today are at some point going to be released and go home,” Skinner said. “And when they do go home, they’re going to end up being someone’s neighbor.”
The sheriff said if his department can teach and give inmates better tools to be better citizens, he thinks that they have an obligation to do so, adding that personally, he is “going to opt for the better neighbor.”
With the IGNITE program, Skinner said, “the inmates must do the work themselves, but we have to show them the path.”
In addressing the audience, Swanson praised Skinner for his leadership, saying “your culture here is the reason why your leadership is going to make this IGNITE culture change work so they’ll never come back. And when that happens, everybody wins.”
For the full story, see the May 17 issue of The Wylie News.