New program at Norfolk City Jail aims to teach inmates skills, reduce recidivism

File photo of a Norfolk City Jail inmate from July 19, 2016. (WAVY Photo)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A new program to help inmates learn life skills will start Friday at the Norfolk City Jail.

Humanities Behind Bars will offer educational and lifestyle training programs to inmates at the jail starting on Friday.

The program started with a book club, a dozen inmates and ODU professors Dr. Meghan McDowell and Dr. Alison Reed. The professors wanted to do more, though. After some brainstorming with their inmate students and corrections staff, the idea grew into what it is now: a grassroots collective of ODU teachers, students, activists, and local artists committed to helping reduce recidivism.

Some of the courses that will likely be offered include resume building and job placement skills, financial advising and business management, American literature and history, Black history in global context, art, poetry and other forms of creative writing, loans, grants, advising for colleges and universities and learning how to become a student mentor.

“Research has indicated that incarcerated individuals who receive education through and lifestyle training programs are over 40 percent less likely to repeat as offenders. [The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office] has seen firsthand the dramatic impact that participating in such programs can have on inmates’ lives,” Norfolk Sheriff’s Office Programs Specialist Tammy Lindquist said.

“We believe it greatly benefits the public to know that such efforts are going on to reintegrate offenders, who are going to eventually be released anyway, back into society with less likelihood of them reengaging in criminal behavior,” Norfolk Sheriff’s Office Colonel Joe Baron added.