Flagler County inmates getting GEDs, birth certificates

Sheriff keeping inmates from coming back after record high occupancy

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FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Two months ago, Flagler County broke a record for the most number of inmates held at the jail on a single night.

Sheriff Rick Staly said when he took over as sheriff, the jail was averaging 130 inmates per night. Now, the jail is averaging 240 inmates per night.

In August, the number of inmates housed hit 256.

"Personally as Sheriff I think it's a great thing," Staly said. "If they're in my jail they're not preying on the community, and if they'll take advantage of the resources we offer, they'll be productive citizens."

Staly said a small minority of citizens are committing the majority of crimes.

While he promised to keep locking up criminals if they keep re-offending, he said his goal is to stop them from continuing to commit crimes.

He created S.T.R.I.D.E. at the Flagler County Jail - Skills, Transitional Support, Respect, Integrity, Direction and Employment.

County partners, including churches, the VA, Stewart-Marchman SMA, shelters, Flagler Technical Institute, Career Source and Flagler County Human Services, offer free services to inmates. All of the partners volunteer their time.

S.T.R.I.D.E. connects inmates with alcohol and drug counseling, teaches them technical and employment skills, and helps them with obtaining a birth certificate, Social Security card and GED.

"The average inmate reads at a second-grade level," Staly said.

Jail Commander Glenn Davis said education is key to preventing inmates from returning.

"We were finding the education level was really low," David said. "And unfortunately without an education, people revert back to what they know to survive. Steal, sell drugs."

Jackson Reeves, a former inmate and one of the first S.T.R.I.D.E. participants, now owns his own handyman business. He's been sober and free for more than a year.

"I started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in jail, Bible studies," Reeves said. "When I came in, I had completely burned my life to the ground. Lost everything, home, business, family."

Reeves said S.T.R.I.D.E. showed him where he could get his teeth fixed and cleaned for just $20: Daytona State College. He hadn't had a teeth cleaning in 15 years.

"As bad a shape as mine were in, the pain was terrible," Reeves said. "Especially with my past with painkillers, it was great to get that addressed."

S.T.R.I.D.E. also helped him replace his birth certificate. 

"I've been reunited with my children, I have four," Reeves said. "Not homeless anymore, we live in a very nice (place), things are looking bright. I used to think if I could be a better guy than I used to be, that would suffice. I had to change a lot of things personally. A totally new guy."

When asked if S.T.R.I.D.E. is getting results, Staly said the proof is in the statistics.

He said violent crime in Flagler County is down 37 percent this year compared to the same crime last year. Crime overall is down 18 percent, Staly said.

Reeves said he wishes he'd known sooner about the resources and services with which S.T.R.I.D.E. connected him.

All of the same services are available and free to all residents of Flagler County.

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