Sheriff’s Office launches new education program in Roanoke City Jail

Roanoke City Sheriff Launches New Education Program For Those In Jail
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 8:54 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office is launching a new program in the city jail, to prepare offenders for life after incarceration and reduce the number who commit new crimes after their release.

A ribbon cutting outside the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office Tuesday morning and a program that followed inside the jail gymnasium introduced the initiative known as (R) I.G.N.I.T.E. The acronym stands for ‘Residents Individually Growing Naturally and Intentionally through Education.’

It builds upon a successful program that started in Flint, Michigan and was adopted by the National Sheriffs’ Association.

The Roanoke initiative will continue existing programs including GED classes. And there are new additions, such as a re-entry pod for those preparing to complete their sentences and return to the community.

“How do you want me to return your citizen back to you,” Sheriff Antonio Hash asked in an interview with WDBJ7. “Do you want me to return them back to you broken, the way they came into our facility, because if we don’t fix where they’re going back into society, they re-offend.”

The event launching the new effort included a graduation ceremony for participants in the jail’s Fresh Start Culinary Program.

Matthew Miller is a Fresh Start graduate who was recognized with several others Tuesday afternoon.

“A lot of people say get better not bitter, so the sheriff here, what he’s doing is giving everybody a second chance and giving them some tools to succeed,” Miller said.

Sheriffs from Flint and from Charlotte, North Carolina attended the event.

Roanoke will be the first community in Virginia to embrace the concept.

And Hash has other ideas, referring to those in the jail as residents rather than inmates, and asking Roanoke City Council to consider renaming the jail as the Roanoke City Justice Center.

Council members expressed support for what the sheriff is trying to accomplish, and said the conversation about renaming the jail will continue.