Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $768,000)
In September 2020 the Office of Genesee County Sheriff established Inmate Growth Naturally and Intentionally Through Education (I.G.N.I.T.E.)
The Office of Sheriff engaged the community and partners over a 18 month period beginning in June 2019 to begin the development of I.G.N.I.T.E. During this time, the community and partners were involved in planning and development of a robust program that was designed to be transparent, and to provide a completely new educational opportunity for incarcerated individuals, as well as, wrap around services for community re-entry. The Office of Sheriff has engaged in a rigorous social media and professional media campaign to keep the community up to date on the progress of I.G.N.I.T.E. This continues today.
Today, all inmates in the Genesee County Jail are enrolled in class 5 days per week for 2 hours per day and are classified upon intake in short term, medium term, or long term educational classes. In addition, inmates can finish their high school diploma, enroll in credit-bearing college courses, skilled trades, and earn a certification in food and beverage safety. The key problem I.G.N.I.T.E. was designed to overcome was generational incarceration, and lack of opportunity once inmates return to the community. I.G.N.I.T.E. is designed to get inmates re-energized through education, so they come back to the facility with testimonies for those incarcerated. Any inmate incarcerated in the Genesee County Jail is eligible to participate in I.G.N.I.T.E., diverse programming allows for participants of all education levels and disciplines to engage in coursework.
Through a partnership with the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office, I.G.N.I.T.E. was designed to far exceed historical jail education programs beyond just the ability to earn a GED. I.G.N.I.T.E. emphasized procedural justice from the very beginning. Sheriff Christopher R. Swanson was steadfast in creating a program that included community leaders, community activists, and individuals dedicated to criminal justice reform. By engaging and including members of the community from wide ranging backgrounds, a new level of law enforcement and community trust has developed.
To continue to build on the success of I.G.N.I.T.E. vital funding is needed to support personnel cost and associated educational materials to create the complete wrap around and training facility at 5601 N. Saginaw Street and the Genesee County Jail.