By William J. Morgan Jr.
The Erie County jail system should not be in the business of rehabilitation. Jail is not meant to provide long-term incarceration (e.g., years) and certainly not a rehabilitative paradigm.
There are people in the community who are outraged that the jail does not provide the programing that other jail systems provide. Let us review the evidence.
The hard-and-fast truth about rehabilitation is that it must come from within the individual. Most crime is committed by a small number of miscreants who use crime as a lifestyle and have had multiple chances to rehabilitate and seek job skills and education independent of jail. The statistics find that 67 to 75 percent of people incarcerated in jail or prison will be re-arrested within three years.
A recent article suggested that Monroe County provides all of these wonderful programs to rehabilitate jail inmates. Independent of corroboration, the questions that must be asked of Monroe is that whether inmates who do not possess a diploma or GED are forced to take the rehabilitation program, or is programing voluntary? Does that number include juveniles and adults? Furthermore, are job skills forced or voluntary? Discovery is also needed into the length of stay for inmates.
According the Erie County Jail Management Division, “The county system combines statistics [for the Erie County Holding Center and Erie County Correctional Facility] regarding average length of stay at the jails: un-sentenced inmates have a LOS of three days, while sentenced inmates have a LOS of 40 days.” Ergo, the time that one would have to acquire skills to get a job or obtain a GED is, at best, minimal.
The work skills taught at Monroe would provide very minimal skill that would not relate to high-paying jobs; a criticism of rehabilitation programs is that they do not lead to high-paying jobs.
Logically, the best method for education at the jail level is voluntary participation for adults so that it is cost effective to the taxpayer. Meanwhile, such programs should be mandatory for incarcerated teens to maintain school-related skills.
While most incarcerated in jails are adults, it is not our job to provide skills they can use outside of jail, if so inclined. Programing in some correctional models is meant to fill idle time, not rehabilitate.
There is nothing wrong with the methods that Erie County administers to the jails, as they are cost-effective and as rehabilitative as possible given the transitory nature of jails as a whole.
William J. Morgan Jr., Ph.D., is a professor of criminal justice at Erie Community College.