It all looks good when you are reading the info packet on what's available in the DOC. The reality is that there are huge waiting lists for education and vocational classes and treatment. It may take months if not years to get into the groups or classes you need. Not everything is available at every prison and the rules don't apply if you go to a private facility. There are fewer than 300 slots available for vocational programs statewide. With 20,000 people in prison that doesn't spread very well. You will usually go to the prison that has a bed available-not to the prison that has the treatment or class that you need.
This month, my brother becomes a statistic, as an American serving a
sentence in prison.
After suffering a personal loss, he chose to console
himself with alcohol, which led to a job loss, which led to more drinking, which
led to crime. Having lost everything but a few possessions, he's now facing at
least two years in prison. That means the rest of my family and I will
become statistics, too. We'll be on the outside, dealing with the
limitations on letters and visits, and missing him at holiday gatherings. We
will also work to support and encourage him to use this time to heal.
Fortunately, that's easier than it used to be. Prisons today offer many
resources to help inmates refocus and prepare for a more positive future.
Colorado prisons house more than 20,000 people, more than double the
population of Alamosa. Gov. Bill Ritter is trying to decrease that number. Since
he took office in January 2007, Ritter has pumped more money into drug, alcohol
and job-training programs aimed at reducing the likelihood that ex-prisoners
will reoffend. His hope is to get inmates to make the most of their time,
instead of just doing it.
That work starts by identifying the causes of the criminal behavior.
According to the Colorado Department of Corrections, almost all Colorado prisons have a chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, and at least half offer Narcotics Anonymous. "We also have mental health staff in each
facility," said Katherine Sanguinetti, spokesperson for the corrections department. "Every incoming inmate goes through an initial assessment, followed
by appropriate treatment."
Education is a high priority of the prison system, too. Inmates who lack a high school diploma or GED are required to go to
class. For those with more education, like my brother, educational and
vocational programs are tied into the community college system, meaning
prisoners can leave the facility and slide right into a classroom.
are many job opportunities.
"There are correctional industries with over 50
different programs," said Sanguinetti, "from training mustangs to building