INTERVIEW: Rick Vest, Counseling Coordinator Of Two-Year College For Prisoners
A view from outside Julia Tutwiler Prison, Wetumpka, Alabama.
Wetumpka, Ala. – J.F. Ingram State is a unique part of Alabama’s two-year college system because one hundred percent of its students are incarcerated. Its new pilot program at Julia Tutwiler Prison focuses on life skills, not just vocational training. As part of our prison-reporting partnership with Alabama Media Group’s Investigative Journalism Lab, WBHM’s Dan Carsen spoke with Ingram State counseling coordinator Rick Vest outside Ingram’s Tutwiler campus. Vest says learning job skills isn’t enough:
0:00 — A “point through the fence” tour, with explanation.
0:30 — Vest says J.F. Ingram Technical College is unique in the nation.
0:50 — A short interruption as counseling interns exit the North Gate.
1:12 — Vest says Ingram’s new president has a vision.
1:45 — A research-based program.
2:03 — Vest and his colleagues had hoped to have a bigger program running by now, but funding has been an issue (a recurring theme throughout the interview).
2:45 — Ingram is not reinventing the wheel, based on a large body of research, says Vest.
2:53 — There’s a big push to decrease recidivism, and there are many reasons for that….
3:50 — One example of studies that show education can decrease recidivism significantly.
4:50 — Interns work for free as part of their education.
6:40 — Carsen asks Vest if the work is a “calling.”
7:10 — Vest says most people’s idea of inmates is not accurate.
7:32 — “95 percent of the people in prison will get out. That is a fact.”
7:57 — “We’re teaching them to [live in mainstream society].” They say, “I just want to have a normal life … but they’re scared that they can’t get that.”
8:53 — The per-person cost of incarceration in Alabama is a little more than half the national average.
9:23 — Vest explains how preventing recidivism saves money — it’s not just the up-front costs (a recurring theme throughout the interview — listen starting at 10:03 also).
9:45 — Carsen asks Vest what he would say to those who think we shouldn’t spend any extra money on people who’ve already broken the law.
10:41 — If incarceration were an epidemic, but we had a vaccine….
Senate Committee Approves Prison Consolidation Plan
A Senate budget committee approved a prison construction bill Wednesday. The bill would close 14 state prisons and build four large regional facilities. Senator Cam Ward was among the bill’s supporters, citing prison overcrowding issues. “Everyone says well you can’t build — and I’ve said this before — you can’t build your way out of the […]
Bentley Calls Tutwiler Settlement ‘Positive Step’ For State
Governor Robert Bentley is praising a settlement between the state and the U.S. Justice Department over conditions at Alabama’s only prison for women. Bentley says the agreement announced Thursday is a “positive step forward” for the corrections agency.
What’s In Alabama’s Prison Reform Bill?
Alabama’s prison reform bill was approved today by a 31-2 vote in the Alabama Senate. The bill contains major changes to the state’s sentencing and probation rules with the goal of reducing prison over-crowding. Alabama’s prisons are currently at almost 200 percent capacity. The bill was crafted by the Alabama Prison Reform Task Force with the help of The Council of State Governments, a nonprofit that works with policymakers across the country. WBHM’s Rachel Osier Lindley spoke with Andy Barbee, research manager with The Council of State Governments about some of the most important policy changes in the Alabama Justice Reinvestment Act and how Alabama’s challenges rank nationally.
The 2015 Alabama Legislative Session Kicks off on Tuesday
The 2015 Alabama legislative session kicks off on Tuesday. From prisons to the state’s budget deficit to education, this year’s session will be full of important — and even controversial — issues. Here to give us a preview of what to expect is Don Dailey, host of Alabama Public Television’s Capital Journal.
Alabama’s Prison Reform Task Force Readies Bill For 2015 Legislative Session
Alabama’s overcrowded prison system has been under close scrutiny since the Justice Department started investigating it last year. If big changes aren’t made during the upcoming legislative session, the state risks a federal takeover. Alabama’s Prison Reform Task Force is working to draft legislation to improve the prison system. State Senator Cam Ward of Alabaster is the task force’s chairman. Ward sat down with WBHM’s Rachel Osier Lindley to talk about the proposed legislation, and who has been involved in the process.