Roanoke’s jail education program sees initial success among inmates

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 6:48 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Inmates taking courses while serving time. It’s happening in Roanoke and the city sheriff’s office wants to expand the educational opportunities for inmates.

Sheriff’s officials report they’ve seen initial success with the R.I.G.N.I.T.E. program, where inmates can get training and certifications to use in the community once their terms are up. The sheriff’s office hopes this program will help inmates get back into the community and stay out of prison for good.

Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office launched the R.I.G.N.I.T.E. program in September. Captain Angela Traynham, the assistant chief support services officer, explained there’s been a positive response among residents at the jail.

“They appreciate that we’re taking the time to really give them opportunities in here; instead of just sitting and waiting for the release date, they’re getting some of the education and tools needed to be successful,” Captain Traynham said.

Some of the programs include finishing GED studies, training for substance abuse prevention, culinary certifications and transitioning back into the community.

“We have seen that in our programming pods, the residents are more compliant with the rules, they’re more receptive to the schedule of events and everything in that pod,” Captain Traynham.

R.I.G.N.I.T.E. aims to ultimately decrease the number of repeat offenders committing crimes on Roanoke’s streets.

“Instead of, as they used to say, ‘Lock them up and throw away the key’, really try to get them to see, what does their life look like beyond these walls?” Captain Traynham said. “Then maybe, fingers crossed, that will reduce recidivism and they won’t come back in contact with us anymore.”

In the last eight months, each of 525 inmates has gone through one of the 11 current programs. The program’s volunteer community partners are currently providing training to 129 residents.

The Sheriff’s Office is looking to add more training programs, like certification for a commercial driver’s license. The department is also getting ready to partner with Roanoke College for the ‘Inside Out’ prison exchange program, where inmates will get college credit in the upcoming fall semester.