Currently at the Floyd County Jail, four inmates are working on their behaviors and creating a better life for themselves once they’re released.
These inmates are part of the jail’s FREED program, or Floyd Re-Entry Education and Discharge. Offender Unit Manager Jen Cronan heads up the program and works with each offender to make sure they’re prepared for success upon release. This includes help finding housing and making sure they have insurance.
In addition, there are two other major steps to FREED — restorative justice and cognitive behavioral therapy.
During the restorative justice step, inmates read “The Little Book of Restorative Justice for People in Prison,” which focuses on rebuilding relationships with friends and family.
“It’s the idea that everyone is interconnected and to rebuild relationships with your family and community after you commit a crime, you have to repair the damage,” Cronan said. “We go over a set of questions after they finish each chapter.”
While reviewing the chapters, Cronan goes over who the victims were in each person’s situation and goes through the steps of “healing the offender and heal the relationships in the community and with their family.”
Cronan is also certified in Moral Reconation Therapy, which is a cognitive behavioral treatment specifically designed for criminal offender populations. The therapy program has 12 steps each person goes through before they complete it.
Judges decide who enters the program, which has many different kinds of offenders, including those charged with violent offenses and drug offenses.
The entire program is self-driven, as Cronan described, and everyone goes at their own pace. She schedules meetings with each inmate to discuss discharge planning, including where they’ll live upon release and how they can get a job.
“If they don’t have a family support system, we talk about how they can rebuild that before release,” Cronan said. “The focus is all about the release so we have to deal with all of the barriers to success upon release.”
The restorative justice program takes about three weeks and the MRT program takes anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks.
“It’s self paced so if they’re putting in the work and what’s asked of them in group and what’s asked of them in their individual sessions, then they step up faster,” she said. “It’s all about how much work they want to put in... so they really have to be intrinsically motivated to move forward.”
So far, FREED only has one graduate, who has also already secured a job upon release a week ago.
Cronan predicts the program will only grow over the next few years. Multiple organizations have also reached out to her about assisting in the program, but the jail is currently closed to the outside to keep the spread of COVID-19 to a minimum.
“There’s a real uniqueness about FREED that I think will have a tremendous impact on the community,” she said.