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12 October 2009

No jobs in this economy...

Dear jailer: Please keep me behind bars

By JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent

BRENTWOOD – Al Wright knew things were bad when he received letters from two inmates at the Rockingham County jail asking if they could stay in jail longer.

via Prison Talk by pmitch10 on 10/12/09

Dear jailer: Please keep me behind bars


By JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent

BRENTWOOD – Al Wright knew things were bad when he received letters from two inmates at the Rockingham County jail asking if they could stay in jail longer.
Jail officials have always known that some inmates intentionally get into trouble just before their scheduled release in hopes of extending their stay, but the letters were something Wright hadn't seen in his 28 years working in corrections.
Inmates know that the economy is still weak and the job prospects aren't good, officials say. With no job and nowhere to live, some inmates have decided they're better off in jail.
"Unfortunately, jail is much nicer than on the street, and with the economy being so bad, it's getting more difficult getting them into a shelter. It's cold living in a Dumpster or on the streets of Portsmouth or Derry, " said Wright, the superintendent of the jail that is nearing capacity, with an average of 350 inmates behind bars each day.
The jail can't legally keep inmates longer just because they want to stay, so Wright denied their requests.
With colder weather coming, Wright is worried he'll see more letters.
David Consentino, a lieutenant at the jail, is hearing similar stories.
"A lot of trade guys know they're not going to be able to get a job when they get out making what they were making when they came in," he said.
Consentino recalled an inmate on a work-release program over the summer who wanted to remain in jail because when he got out, he knew he had to find an apartment and pay restitution.
Those on work-release are paid an hourly wage by the employer, and some don't want to give that up. They know they might not find a job when they get out, officials said, and if they do, housing could be too expensive. The jail is a controlled environment that forces inmates on work-release to save their money since they can't spend much.
Consentino said the work-release inmate ended up filing a motion in court to extend his time. He was finishing a sentence and had a second criminal case pending, so he decided to plead guilty in the second case, which allowed him to remain behind bars as he served his second sentence.
"He had nothing to go to on the outside and he needed a place to live," Consentino said.
Jail officials insist they're doing all they can to help inmates prepare for the world once they're released.
Consentino oversees a pre-release program that assists inmates with finding a job, housing, clothing and other needs they may have once they're out.
The jail also has a mental health counselor on staff and over the last five years, has reached out more to mental health agencies and other medical providers.
Susan Turner, director of Rockingham County Community Resource Network, works closely with the jail to bring different agencies together.
"We bring around the table the agencies in the area who might have some dealings with these people when they come out," Turner said. "We try to figure out how to help them so they're not homeless and they do get their health care needs met."
The goal of pre-release planning, Consentino said, is to help the inmates maintain their freedom so they don't end up back behind bars.
"If they need a place to go, we try to find a relative, a friend, a shelter, wherever we can find a place they can go," Consentino said. "We try to place them someplace where it will be productive for them."
Finding relatives willing to take people in after their release isn't always easy because some are burned out after years of trying to help.
"Homelessness and helplessness is really what we're dealing with," Wright said.

Posted via email from Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition

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