Regional Jail Industries: Connecting the Dots

American Jails, January/February 2012 | Go to article overview

Regional Jail Industries: Connecting the Dots


Located in Wiscasset, Two Bridges Regional Jail (TBRJ) is Maine's only regional jail. It was built to serve Lincoln and Sagadahoc Counties, two of the three smallest counties in the State. Their county seats are only 10 miles apart. Planning for the jail began in 2003, officials broke ground in 2005, and the facility opened in 2006. The 185bed facility is currently administered by the 12-member Board of Directors of the Multicounty Jail Authority.

Consistent with TBRJ's Mission Statement and Core Ideas, meaningful work is what links the inmates to the overall agency mission and the community. It also provides inmates with an incentive to participate in education and other programs.

Officials planned for the expanded use of inmate labor from the beginning. The facility design provides several areas that may be used for a variety of work projects. A full-time Industries Manager, Naomi Bonang, was hired several months before the facility opened to ensure that work was fully integrated into the programs and operations. She had more than 20 years experience in education, but was new to the field of corrections. She relied on guidance provided by other jail industries managers and the resources that had been developed by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice.

Ms. Bonang developed the key policies that would form the foundation for the program. These "foundation decisions" are described in the BJA book, Developing a Jail Industry, A Workbook www.jailwork.com).

The first step was to identify the stakeholders in the community and invite them to join a Jail industry advisory committee. Ms. Bonang says, "I was a department of 'one' so it was vital that I had input (and the opportunity to brainstorm - sometimes for hours) from area leaders as to how to make this a successful and long term endeavor that would be welcomed in the community for years to come."

Twenty-two invitations were sent to business people, media, bankers, educators, and other stakeholders that included attorneys, assistant district attorneys, probation officers, sheriffs, business owners (two from each county), a director of a vocational school, and one high school adult education director.

The response was positive from all the stakeholder groups. The committee laid the foundation for the jail industry program, starting with a specific mission statement for the jail industry program. The committee also set short- and long-term goals

Connecting to Programs

The advisory board agreed with the industries manager that TBRJ's industries program should have a training and education component. The board set a policy that inmates who were hired as workers must have their high school diploma or GED, or be working toward that goal. In this way, the industries program actually increased inmate participation in education programs.

The board also wanted to help inmates prepare for jobs in the community once they were released. One of the board members, a director at a local vocational school, told the board about a program offered at an area high school, which taught skills needed in the marine trades. As Maine has a number of coastal communities, this would be a good opportunity.

The following spring, the industries program secured a grant through Maine Community Colleges for a Marine Trades Certificate Program. Instructors from the college spent six weeks at the jail teaching courses in marine hydraulics, marine diesel repair, and safety. In addition to interested inmate workers, some inmates from the jail's general population were also allowed to participate.

The industries program has become a powerful management tool for the whole facility. Inmates must earn the right to be eligible for a paying job, through their good behavior and their participation in programs.

Community Service

Community service is an important component to the jail industries program. Consistent with the overall mission of the facility, the board believed that when given the opportunity, most inmates are anxious to give back to the community. …

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