At the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors first meeting of 2023, on Tues., Jan. 3, Sheriff Kevin Hall reported that 70 inmates at the Alleghany Regional Jail in Covington are benefiting from an educational program.
Hall noted that 100 computer tablets have been distributed to the inmates, enabling them to pursue educational programs.
After Hall presented statistics concerning animal control and litter control, he detailed the implementation and results thus far that have been derived from his Pathway to Achieve Program.
Hall noted that during COVID-19, the need to minimize contact with inmates led to the idea of providing them with tablets that would enable them to communicate with those on the outside in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“We were able to get 100 tablets into the jail to combat COVID,” Hall recalled.
That was on Oct. 3, 2022, when Hall’s Pathway to Achieve Program was initiated without costing the taxpayers a penny due to a grant proposal that was funded.
Hall observed, “During three months we have had 153 learners.”
He explained to the supervisors that the tablets were distributed with incentives for the inmates to take care of them and that an instructor was brought into the jail to educate the inmates on the use and care of the tablets.
Hall stated, “These tablets were not for inmates to play with but to be used to help educate them.”
He noted that the inmates have received instruction on anger management and behavior modification.
They (the inmates) have received instruction in beginning English, how to be a better father, equipment maintenance, mental health, plumbing,
He added, “The long story short is that when the inmates get out, they are going to be living with us.”
The supervisors listened intently to Hall and made suggestions aimed at expanding the educational program to involve Mountain Gateway Community College and WestRock.
As for the time the inmates remain in jail, Hall observed, “It (the educational program) occupies their time and improves relations with other inmates and staff.”
Hall said that before the tablets were distributed, inmates had all kinds of free time to do nothing except get on others’ nerves.
Supervisor James A. Griffith discussed other options to work with other outside entities to expand the educational offerings, and Stephen A. Bennett, supervisor representing the Jackson River District, advised, “Move the bottom up.”
Bennett was referring to those inmates who suffer from a lack of education and skills that in part land them in jail.
Hall stressed, “We’re going to give the inmates an opportunity.”
Chairman Matt Garten remarked, “Bringing the incarceration system into the 21st century is important.”
Hall invited the supervisors to visit the jail to observe the way the Pathway to Achieve Program is working by awarding points to inmates who successfully complete various educational programs.
In other business, Garten, who represents the Falling Spring District, was re-elected as the chairman, and Griffith, supervisor representing the Covington District, was elected vice-chairman, both by unanimous votes.
Also, a code of ethics and the board’s by-laws were approved along with the minutes of a regular meeting held on Nov. 1, 2022.
Donald Wolfe, a public works employee who is retiring after 15 years and eight months, was recognized for his service, and the board passed a resolution of appreciation to present to him.
The board also approved a replacement for Anne Dean, representative of the Covington District on the Alleghany Highlands Community Services Board (AHCSB) for three consecutive three-year-terms and is not eligible to continue serving.
Dianne Garcia was approved to replace Dean, and Robin Sweeney was reappointed to serve another term to represent the Jackson River District on AHCSB.
Also, the supervisors passed a “Resolution of Respect” for Frank Hepler.
Bob Bennett reported from the podium about car insurance and taxes, and Susan Hammond, VDOT resident engineer, gave an update on road repair work, including work to replace a bridge over Dunlap Creek that had served U.S. Route 60 motorists prior to the building of I-64.
Each supervisor made personal comments following Alleghany County Administrator Reid Walters’ report that revealed Alleghany County is one of eight governmental entities being considered for aid from Virginia Ready Business out of the 100 applications that were submitted.
The supervisors retired to a closed meeting to discuss property acquisition.