FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A local sheriff’s office is helping inmates improve their outcomes for life after incarceration.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Fayetteville Adult Education Center to form the Arkansas Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy (WAGE).
The WAGE program is a 12-week training course where educators visit the Washington County Jail to teach inmates how to get and hold a job after serving their sentence. Three inmates — David Robinson, Waymon May and Chuck Planchon — completed the Level I courses last week and now have the option to get more specialized teaching, like OSHA training, moving forward.
Washington County Sheriff Jay Cantrell says the program is designed to help limit the jail’s overcrowding.
“These classes that will, we hope, help people that when they get out of jail to get a foot in the door with a decent job and have the skills they need to success and not come back to jail,” Cantrell said.
Washington County Detention Center’s capacity has reached about 130%, and Cantrell says the average inmate there ends up back in jail more than seven times.
Washington County Judge Patrick Deakins says WAGE can help restore hope for people who may have come from long lines of broken homes.
“Let them see that there is a tomorrow out there outside of the activities that they’re doing right now, outside of the harm they’ve done to themselves and their families.” Deakins said. “There’s a way to go back, fix that and become productive members of society again.”
Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition is a local nonprofit organization that is “standing for justice and liberty,” according to its bio on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Sarah Moore, executive director of the Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition, praised the sheriff office’s efforts. She also said economic, mental health and addiction relief programs among others, may be needed to help those behind bars.
“People are complex,” Moore said. “They don’t typically have just one thing that’s happening within their life. And so, it’s not a one-size-fits-all, unfortunately, where we can’t just offer one thing.”