A new, privately owned medium-security prison in Shelby County, Al., will try to do something public prisons can’t: Keep inmates from coming back, reports the Birmingham News. The prison, in an old factory in Columbiana at a cost of at least $8 million, will provide life coaching and job-skills training to inmates near the ends of their sentences. “It’s a very intensive program,” said Alabama prisons Commissioner Richard Allen. “From the time they get up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night, they’re busy.” New Jersey-based Community Education Centers Inc. built the prison and will get $5.8 million a year for three years to operate it.
Called the “Alabama Therapeutic Education Facility,” the prison has more than 350 inmates, who are called “residents,” and is large enough to house 700. Located among businesses in an industrial neighborhood, the facility has an exterior that looks little like a traditional prison. Inmates are assessed upon entry and receive customized services. Among the services available: Cognitive and life skills development, including programs to improve decision making and the management of emotions; substance abuse counseling and support groups; instruction in many job skills. A study by Drexel University and the New Jersey Department of Corrections said the recidivism rate for inmates who successfully completed the firm’s program in New Jersey was 34.5 percent after one year. For other inmates the rate was 47 percent.