Genesee County Jail inmates thankful for second chance with IGNITE program

This is the first time we’re hearing from the participants of IGNITE. It launched in September.
Published: Nov. 26, 2020 at 8:39 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (11/26/2020) - A mid-Michigan church treated inmates at the Genesee County Jail to a Thanksgiving feast Thursday.

The Sheriff invited ABC12 inside to check out the holiday meal.

While there, we asked many of the men and women what they’re thankful for. The overwhelming response -- the jail’s new IGNITE program.

It allows inmates the opportunity to get an education, while serving time or awaiting trial.

This is the first time we’re hearing from the participants of IGNITE. It launched in September.

IGNITE stands for Inmate Growth Naturally and Intentionally Through Education. It’s providing the inmates a second chance once they’ve served their time.

“You sit in here day in and day out and you don’t get, you know, you really get mind boggled, and you get brought down by the, you know, by the cases and stuff and IGNITE gives you a glimmer of hope,” Jeremie Hawley said.

For two hours a day, the men and women inside the Genesee County Jail have the opportunity to go to school.

They can work towards their GED or learn trades like welding, plumbing, electrical, carpentry and other life skills, like switching a light bulb.

“It’s pretty cool to me. I’ll tell you that much,” Darell Brown said.

He is taking advantage of the opportunity to increase his math skills. Brown has his sights set on helping his kids once he’s released.

“To be able to sit there and be able to help them to learn Algebra, it’s gonna be a great thing. Instead of me looking I’m like, I don’t know what this is. It’s not gonna be a foreign language to me, it’s gonna be something I can actually sit down to help my kids with,” he explained.

Both men said this opportunity to spend time focused on bettering themselves has had a dramatic effect on the jail environment.

Sheriff Chris Swanson said even though they’re only able to house the most violent inmates right now, assaults on staff and assaults on inmates are down 75-percent.

“I’ve been in here multiple times and this is the calmest I’ve ever seen this Jail,” Hawley said. “Like I said, it gives us a glimmer of hope. You know, it gives us something to look forward to.”

Once their time is served, the Sheriff said each participant will be connected with an employer. The end goal -- give the inmates resources to never return here to the Jail.

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