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Newton County Sheriff's program works to help inmates develop skills to re-enter society

Since the program began, Newton County inmates have completed more than 250,000 courses.
Credit: Newton Sheriff

NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. — A program that helps people transition back into society is about to get a boost in tech.

Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown's Pathway to Achieve program currently uses 222 tablets but inventory will soon be increased to 450 tablets due to the program's success. 

The program is working to help inmates in the Newton County Detention Center re-enter society and reduce recidivism – the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend, the sheriff's office said in a release. 

Through the Pathway to Achieve program, inmates have access to over 900 education courses using tablets from the detention center's phone provider, Pay Tel Communications.

Pay Tel Communication tablets offer a safe and secure way for inmates to receive educational content because the devices operate on a closed network, with no direct access to the internet, a release stated.

"Skills training and job readiness is a key part of reversing the recidivism cycle," Brown said. "I recently saw a statistic that formerly incarcerated individuals have a nationwide unemployment rate of 27%. I want to give the people in my custody the ability to make a better life for themselves after incarceration."

Courses are free for inmates to take.

When inmates log into their tablets, they are required to take a Risk/Needs Assessment (RNA) to gauge their likelihood to re-offend and assessment results recommend courses to support individual behavior change.

The program covers topics such as addiction recovery, anger management and parenting. After completion, inmates earn credits and have the ability to send course certificates to their attorneys or probation officers.

In addition to providing educational resources, Brown recognizes having a productive life also means participating in extracurricular activities as well.

Inmates have an opportunity to listen to faith-based content. They can also use credits earned to listen to music, play games or watch movies, the sheriff's office said.

Aside from education and extracurricular content, the tablets also come equipped with resources available in Newton County to make re-entry manageable. Resources include assistance with getting necessities like housing, food and clothing.

Since the program began, Newton County inmates have completed more than 250,000 courses. In addition, over 50 inmates have completed all 167 GED prep courses – despite GED courses being unavailable due to "financial constraints and a staffing shortage."

According to the sheriff's office, "with the tablets, every single inmate has access to these courses and can take them at their own pace."

Anyone who needs support can access these resources online here.

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