Jail hires re-entry director to help inmates transition into community successfully

Published 1:09 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Danville-Boyle County Detention Center is implementing a new transitional program for county inmates who are about to be released from incarceration. It’s similar to the program currently offered to state inmates and to Shepherd’s House clients, which is a non-residential treatment program for those recovering drug and alcohol addictions who have been arrested.

On Tuesday, James Hunn will become the jail’s first re-entry program director, said Jailer Brian Wofford. “It’s something we’ve wanted to implement for a while. And there’s no cost to the taxpayers,” Wofford said. The re-entry program is being paid for through the jail’s canteen funds, he explained.

Hunn is also director of Danville’s Circle of Hope.

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Wofford said as re-entry program director, Hunn will oversee classes that help inmates earn their GEDs, learn how to obtain IDs and Social Security cards, learn job skills, write resumes, learn how to deal with anger issues and gain parenting skills, just to name a few.

“I know he has the right heart” to work with inmates who are getting prepared for life outside of jail, Wofford said.

“Our goal is to keep them from coming back. When they go out, they’ll be set up for success,” Wofford said.

“I’m looking forward to our future as we continue to change our approach to corrections.”

Hunn said his position at the jail will be part-time and he’ll continue working with the Hope Network at the Shepherd’s House too.

Hunn has experience in helping young veterans transition back into civilian life. “I always made sure the junior troops had those tools to make sure they made the right decisions,” in civilian life.

For inmates, “I think education, housing, transportation, all of those things are important to give these individuals the opportunity to make those decisions to get out of this vicious cycle,” of drug use and incarceration, “… as they process back out into our community.”

Some of the life skills Hunn will be teaching include common courtesy, group dynamics, how to interview for a job and even how to quit a job.

Hunn said many inmates never learned these life skills because of the way they were raised. “I think sometimes it’s a breakdown in our families now a days.” He said some inmates have parents and even grandparents who are addicts. “That’s part of it.”

They need to learn how to deal with their anger, how group dynamics work and how to resolve conflicts once they land a job.

Hunn said he worked with one young man who got frustrated, “flipped off” his boss at work and ran off. “That’s not the correct way” to handle conflict with a supervisor, Hunn said.

Another guy said he quit his job by having his friend call and tell the supervisor he wasn’t coming back. “The proper way was to give them a two-week notice, but he thought it was OK that he had his friend call.”

Hunn hopes the jail’s new program, which he and Wofford will be developing “from the ground up,’’ will help inmates learn how to not only be drug free, but be good citizens and employees too.

“They’re still going to have conflicts when they get out of the detention center. Life is still going to hand you some bad things. But how are you going to respond to those things,” Hunn said. “Death is going to come. Sickness is going to come. You may get fired from your job. How do you handle those situations as you transition back out into the community.”

He said, “Our job is to give them … tools and choices to make their lives better.”

Also, “After care is critical. After they get out of the detention center, that’s something we’re going to have to come with and follow up.”

Housing and transportation will be a big issue to solve, Hunn said. “Some of our policies locally will have to change.”

For example, he wants to make sure the local Economic Development Partnership is aware. “We have this workforce that can maybe come out (of jail); they’ve been through this program. Why not give them a chance? At least give them a chance to see if they can do it.”

He added, “I would love for some of the employers around here be able to partner with this reentry program. They’re (inmates) already vetted, they’ll have good resumes and working skills and are drug free.”