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Summit County Jail offers in-house motivation program to reduce repeat offenders

Summit County's 'Motiversity' program seeks to inspire inmates to live better lives.
Ievgen Chabanov/motortion - stock.adobe.com
Summit County's 'Motiversity' program seeks to inspire inmates to live better lives.

A program started by a Summit County sergeant last year is helping to keep people who have served time from going back to jail.

The program, titled “Motiversity,” is the brainchild of Summit County Sheriff Sgt. Christina De La Cruz. She explains it’s one of several programs offered by the jail. She developed it last August after speaking to an inmate who wanted to turn his life around.

“It started from an inmate coming to me wanting more programming,” De La Cruz said. “And we kind of developed this program where we watch motivational videos that we get off of YouTube, like ‘TED Talks’ and things like that. And then the class has a discussion about what they liked from those videos, what they got out of them.”

“Motiversity” is a 12-week program offered to any inmate who’s interested. Each week the curriculum looks to inspire the incarcerated to live better lives. Sgt. De La Cruz says to graduate from the program, inmates write an essay about what they learned in class and reflect on what their life could be like in the next three to five years, if they were to make changes for the better.

In addition to watching inspiring online videos, De La Cruz invites guest speakers who volunteer their time to interact with the inmates at the jail.

“A lot of them [guest speakers] have been incarcerated previously,” she said. “It’s a way to show them that there is life after prison or jail, that you can be successful and not come back. You don't have to keep reoffending or have that criminal mindset.”

Summit County Jail Commander Jon Evans says the program has helped reduce recidivism or the rate of former inmates returning to jail. He says many who are in jail just don’t know any better.

“A lot of it is their history of growing up,” Evans said. “They come from single families, or their moms and dads are also incarcerated. And so, they don't know any other life. This program gives them hope that somebody's been in their shoes, and they can get out and stay out. They don't have to get in that revolving door of the corrections system. So that's what I love about it, that word ‘hope.’ If you give somebody hope, it can go 1,000 miles for them.”

De La Cruz says the program has been so successful the state prison has incorporated it into its inmate programming. To date, 147 county inmates have registered and 25 have graduated by completing all the course work. Ten have not returned to jail and 13 are still serving their sentences. She says only two graduates have violated parole and returned to jail.

“It's just a really great opportunity for them to turn their pain into purpose,” De La Cruz said.

Those who complete the program will be considered as candidates for the “Real Testament” program which allows inmates to publicly share their stories at organizations like youth groups and the Citizens Academy.