Jail programs aim to reduce recidivism

CLINTON — Building the new jail has given Clinton County a chance to make policy and program changes, Clinton County Supervisor Dan Srp told the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership Institute Tuesday.

During a slideshow presentation of the new jail facility attached to Clinton County Courthouse, Srp and Deputy Sheriff Steve Diesch discussed the county's plan to reduce recidivism among inmates.

Education and employment are two parts to the plan. The new jail has classrooms where inmates can earn GEDs through Clinton Community College, Diesch said. Iowa Workforce will visit the jail free of charge to help inmates with job-related tasks such as writing resumes or filling out job applications.

But while the county is providing education and job training in an attempt to keep inmates from returning to jail, Diesch isn't optimistic that the plan will succeed. Jail is a way of life for some people, he said. "I'm seeing third generation [inmates]."

The idea that they have to work to provide for themselves is new to some inmates. Spending time in jail "for these people, that's normal," Diesch said.

"Meth is just running rampant in Clinton again," Diesch said.

You can't return people to a state they've never been to, said Srp, but if the county can teach work ethic and skills, perhaps inmates will change their thinking, find employment when they're released and not return to jail.

"I'm not as hopeful as Dan is," Diesch said, "but I've been doing this 22 years." He recited the old adage that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

Srp agreed. "You can impact people, give them a push in the right direction," but, ultimately, people make their own decisions.

Srp would be happy to get two or three people off the list of returning inmates, he said, having a successful impact on that person and their families.

"I've got realistic expectations," Diesch said.

A native of Centerville, Winona comes to the Clinton Herald after writing for the Ottumwa Courier for two years.