Hampden County, Ma., Sheriff Mike Ashe Jr. is being honored tonight by a group called Community Resources for Justice. Ashe tells Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham how a corrections system should work: “If [inmates] can walk out of here and say, ‘Hey, these people are for real, I’m valued as a human being,’ they feel like they’re worth something.”
Together with his brother Jay, Mike Ashe has created one of the most forward-thinking jail systems, says Abraham. Others have done some of the things he has done. Ashe has taken more risks, and had more firsts, than just about any of them. Most of his 1,500 inmates are substance abusers, a quarter are mentally ill, few have high school diplomas. Ashe reckons you have no hope of correcting their behavior if you don't tackle those things. All inmates, even those awaiting trial, have mandatory counseling, education, and job training. Ashe demands a 40-hour week of rehab, therapy, training, and work (sewing, building furniture, upholstering). Fully 330 of those released last year went on to community college.