Androscoggin County Jail cutting adult education classes to meet budget

By Daniel Hartill, Sun Journal
Posted April 11, 2012, at 10:04 a.m.

AUBURN, Maine — The Androscoggin County Jail will soon end a decades-old program aimed at helping inmates manage their anger and prepare for life outside.

On June 30, the jail will sever its contract with Lewiston Adult Education, pulling full-time teacher Noel Plourde from the jail and halting all classroom, small-group and one-on-one services.

“We’re going to be warehousing,” Sheriff Guy Desjardins said Tuesday. “It’s sad.”

The reason is money.

The state Board of Corrections has called for a 1 percent cut in the jail’s $5.5 million budget for the coming year. Desjardins plans to cut the heating budget. He’ll find some money by paying less overtime and shrinking the dollars paid to part-time guards.

He desperately wanted to keep the schooling, but the numbers wouldn’t work.

“We just couldn’t come up with the money,” he said. “It was either that or cut security staff. And I can’t do that.”

The cancellation will be felt throughout the jail, he said.

“We’re trying to prepare people for re-entry back into the community,” said Eva Giles, the director of Lewiston Adult Education. A lot of the work centers on helping people rejoin the job market and make better decisions.

And if they cannot complete their work in jail, teacher Plourde helps inmates find what they need outside.

“Some folks begin their GED prep in the jail and finish with a local adult education program outside,” Giles said. Some may take the GED test while inside or begin work that will help them enter community college when they get out.

Between July 2011 and December 2011, the program helped 107 students, according to a report. Most received some basic or high school-level schooling. Almost one-third attended individualized anger-management training sessions.

“It’s more than just the numbers,” Desjardins said. “Let’s face it. It’s a way for a good number of inmates to occupy their time in a positive fashion. They’re not hanging out watching TV. They’re not hanging out causing trouble. Their minds are exercising. They’re learning something and, hopefully, that reduces our recidivism.”

It’s that hope that Desjardins and Giles plan to share with the Board of Corrections in late May. Though the jail has officially given its 90-day notice to Lewiston Adult Education, they plan to talk with the state board and make a last-minute plea for money to continue.

“I understand in tough financial circumstances it’s always a balancing act,” Giles said. “But if you have limited dollars, where do you want to put those dollars to get the best return on investment?”

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http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/11/news/lewiston-auburn/androscoggin-county-jail-cutting-adult-education-classes-to-meet-budget/ printed on September 23, 2014