By Wyatt Goolsby
MIDLAND COUNTY - Too many inmates, too little space. In order to make more room, Midland County's looking at a way to keep criminals from coming back.
Representatives from all over Midland met Monday to discuss a brand new rehabilitation program. Once the work is complete, it'll be the first of its kind in West Texas.
85 percent: That's the number of people who go back to jail in Midland County after already going to jail once. So, when it comes to rehabilitation, the big point stressed at Monday's meeting was education.
"An inmate's an inmate. And you have some inmates that are going to be sentenced to serve time," Sheriff Gary Painter, said. "Rather than have them sitting on their butts, we need to find something that is useful, that is productive."
Painter said whether it's with an inmate work program or with training and classes at Midland College, some new programs need to be in place when you're talking jail expansion.
"So that it can be attached in something that we can access, to keep these criminals or keep these individuals from becoming criminals and keep them out of the criminal justice system," Painter explained.
Officials said with so many repeat offenders, a rehab program could actually save money in the long run.
"Out here we have certain needs in the workforce and we try to fulfill them," Midland County Judge Mike Bradford added. "What we don't believe in Midland County is rehab means you unlock the front door and let them out of the jail. That's not rehab. You have to send people out with skills."
Skills that could be taught in a step program either in the jail or at Midland College facilities. One of the details still to be ironed out: supervision if they do come on campus.
"From our point of view, the issue is a security concern. Now, I do recognize that these are all going to be pretty low risk," Rex Peebles, the Vice-President of Instruction at Midland College, said.
In the end, though, Midland College officials hope the programs will help.
"Unless you have some other innate talent that you can market somehow, which most of us don't have, then the key to prosperity especially over a course of a lifetime is education of some kind," Peebles explained.
Many of the details about the program are still being worked out. Officials said they are getting a lot of input from groups outside of Midland County and hope to have a better idea in the next few months.