Wake County jail inmates could receive life skills training, GED prep, and other classes from Wake Tech instructors under a proposal from Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria.

The idea, Calabria told commissioners at Monday’s meeting, is to help inmates return to a productive role in society instead of showing up again in the criminal justice system. Wake ran such a program until lowered revenues killed it during the recession. Calabria said the lack of educational opportunities in county detention has been particularly hard on inmates who are of high school age but have not graduated.

“While people of all ages could benefit from the GED programs, under current N.C. law, if you are a school-aged person who is placed in jail, your education basically stops until you get out, making it all the more difficult to return to productive, law-abiding citizenship,” Calabria said during his presentation.

Commissioners James West and Jessica Holmes, while approving of Calabria’s goal, said it will be important to make sure that any program doesn’t overlap with existing or planned efforts to work with at-risk populations.

“I just want to make sure that we communicate and build upon the work that has already been laid,” Holmes said.

Calabria noted that the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office offers a wide variety of classes to inmates. Some, such as anger management, life skills, GED prep, and yoga, are open to both men and women. “It’s well ahead of us in the development of these sorts of educational opportunities,” Calabria said.

The proposed Wake program would initially cost a little more than $100,000. Calabria mentioned ABC revenues a possible funding source.

This article appeared in print with the headline “+BREAK THE CYCLE.”