New inmate housing to split up youth offenders

12/22/2009 08:06 PM

By: Brad Broders

CHARLOTTE – In just weeks, a new youthful offender housing unit will open in north Charlotte.

 The county’s 56 inmates will be spread out across small pods. County leaders say the new facility will allow them to work more closely with 16- and 17-year-olds and keep them out of jail later as adults.

 Now, Mecklenburg County’s youthful inmates live together without much separation.

 “You can’t let everyone out in the day room at the same time,” Sheriff Chip Bailey said. “You have to work with them and split them up.”

 But that will change with the new unit at Jail North on Spector Drive. The facility will break inmates up into four 12-person pods.

 “The units will give us a lot more closeness with the kids,” Bailey said. “We’ll be able to work with them with our programming we operate here, the educational components, the counseling components.”

 Jail administrators say this pod system is easier for detention officers to manage and avoids the potential of having rival gang members close together.

 “We can house first-time offenders and more vulnerable kids in a pod to isolate them from more of the hardened kids,” Karen Simon, director of inmate programs, said.

 With those issues resolved, Bailey said the pod system can more attentively help inmates learn a trade, earn their GED and hopefully keep them from landing behind bars later in life.

 “The whole intent here is to change their mindset, and change their life and the way they look at things, and keep them from coming back,” Bailey said.

 That’s why officials are optimistic they’re doing more than building new jails.

 “They haven’t gotten good direction, and many of them take full advantage of the opportunity to make different life choices,” Simon said.

 Jail administrators expect the youth offenders will move into their new cells between mid-January and early February.


Published in: on December 23, 2009 at 2:45 am  Leave a Comment  

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