Sebastian County sheriff says equipping inmates with job skills crucial to reducing recidivism

Sheriff says recidivism needs to be addressed at state and local levels.

By Max Bryan
SW Times Record

State-level efforts to reduce recidivism are happening in the Fort Smith region, and the Sebastian County sheriff has ideas to lower the rate as well.

Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said he would like to see money go toward equipping inmates with skills pertinent to staying out of prison on the front end of incarceration. This approach would provide services earlier than Restore Hope Arkansas, which makes life plans for inmates just prior to their release from state prison.

“People are coming back to Sebastian County without a skill set, without any type of trade that has been taught or given to them while they’re incarcerated, and they come back to Sebastian County with some pocket change, and we ask ourselves, ‘Why in the world is there so much recidivism?’ It’s the perfect storm,” Hollenbeck said.

Officials with Restore Hope Arkansas, an organization aimed at lowering the state recidivism rate, in 2017 chose Fort Smith as one of the areas in the state to enact the program based on foster care numbers and the estimated 800 former inmates who return to the area each year. Of the 304 former inmates who in 2017 met with Restore Hope officials prior to returning to the area, 268 accepted help and opened an active case plan, and 153 have been connected with a recovery coach, said Paul Chapman, president of Restore Hope. Chapman in August said former inmates from Fort Smith who are in the program have made strides in areas like drug recovery, parole and unemployment. READ MORE.

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