LINCOLN COUNTY, MO - The cost of funding the criminal justice system and the costs of crime itself is a huge burden on taxpayers. So, how do you decrease spending, improve public safety, and decrease crime? In Lincoln County, the sheriff and local organizations believe it’s by investing in the people behind bars.
John Cottle, the Lincoln County Sheriff, says “there’s some people who come into our walls who have never had a positive experience, or it’s been so long since they’ve had a positive experience that they forgot how it feels.” Cottle, along with several community organizations hope to change that through a new training program and classes aimed at keeping them from becoming repeat offenders. “There’s a lot of partners involved in this that will each come in with their different types of training programs and skills”, said Lincoln County Development Assistant Director Julie Rodgers. That includes finding and keeping a job. Rodgers says, “we’ll be helping them prepare a resume, teaching them how to interview, teaching them about what it means to be on time, just those kind of job responsible things that employers look for”. They also offer classes on life skills. According to Sheriff Cottle, “a lot of these guys are learning basic finance, how to take care of a checkbook, how to manage your money. Some of it is writing a resume, skills they’ve never had to use or never learned”. They also learn lessons that are even more important, “There’s some family members that’s a big reason I ended up back here. And even though I love them I need to keep them away,” says current inmate Charles Reef. The classes are not mandatory and any of the prisoners can sign up.
Sheriff Cottle doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. Two former inmates actually work for him at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office doing construction work. That has been a life saver for one of them. “To put trust in me and made me build myself up to the point where you know, people will give me a break and it’s so awesome,” say’s former inmate Bryan Clary.
They are at full capacity at the jail and currently have a 20% success rate with the new program. Cottle is hoping for 25% by the end of the year and says that’s a good percentage.
There are also plans in the works to build a new training facility for inmates that will teach skills like graphics to make them marketable for higher paying jobs.