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Updated: 10/30/2012 05:51:26PM

Judd on right track by educating prisoners

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We are not always in agreement with Sheriff Grady Judd when it comes to how he runs the county jail but the sheriff’s recent announcement, unveiled at a — you guessed it — press conference is something to cheer about.

Judd has decided that instead of just housing prisoners and allowing them to sit around all day that it would be a good idea to get them some education while they are incarcerated.

Judd said he is offering prisoners “keys to stay out of jail” by exposing them to non-stop educational videos that will play continually from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“We are going to have a school environment in our jail every day,” Judd said.

The video topics include reading, writing and arithmetic and preparing for the GED test. Disease prevention, hygiene and drug education are other topics.

In addition to the videos, Judd is phasing in classroom instruction in how to search for a job and how to perform CPR.

Judd said it took several months to prepare the videos and courses and much of it was reviewed by the Polk County School District.

Some critics of the sheriff have implied that the sheriff is beginning the education program because of a recent lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center that accuses the sheriff of mistreating juveniles, who are housed in the same jail building as adults.

We don’t think that is the case but we don’t care what has motivated the sheriff, we would just like to thank him for moving in the right direction.

Prisoners who wind up in the county jail are there for many reasons. Some are chronic criminals, some are awaiting trial and should be treated as innocent men or women, and some are just unlucky souls who may have a mental illness and wound up violating the law and sentenced to jail.

But one thing every county jail prisoner has in common is that they are going to leave the jail in less than a year. Making sure someone spent their time in jail learning something is a worthy enterprise and we think the community should support Judd’s effort.

And there is a way you can help. Judd said that he currently has about 25 volunteers helping with the program but could use more. He suggested that retired school teachers would make good volunteers for this program.

When Judd took the basketball hoops and underwear away from Polk County inmates we thought those moves were strange and did nothing to help the community or the inmates.

But this idea is a winner and the sheriff deserves the community’s support.