2017-01-08 / Insight

14 support programs at county jail contribute to betterment of inmates

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


Lt. Duane Engelhardt, jail administrator at the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept., said the more than dozen support groups and programs run through the Lapeer County Jail make the jail a safer place for its staff and inmates. 
Photos by Phil Foley Lt. Duane Engelhardt, jail administrator at the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept., said the more than dozen support groups and programs run through the Lapeer County Jail make the jail a safer place for its staff and inmates. Photos by Phil Foley LAPEER — The Lapeer County Jail is different. While a U.S. Dept. of Justice study in 2015 showed that inmate deaths in jails and prisons had increased for the third straight year, rising 131 deaths to 4,446, the Lapeer County Jail has yet to record a single death of any kind since it opened at its current location in 1996.

“We are the anomaly,” said Lt. Duane Englehardt. He joined the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. in 1989 as a deputy and began as the jail administrator in 2005.

He credited the shift from simply housing prisoners to helping prisoners to Bob Rapson, who retired last month after 42 years with the department as undersheriff, but was a lieutenant at the time.


Lt. Duane Engelhardt, who’s been in charge of Lapeer County’s Jail since 2005, said he has seen what works and what doesn’t. According to Engelhardt what works is offering programs aimed at making inmates better people. Lt. Duane Engelhardt, who’s been in charge of Lapeer County’s Jail since 2005, said he has seen what works and what doesn’t. According to Engelhardt what works is offering programs aimed at making inmates better people. That shift in focus, Englehardt said, has led to better outcomes. Not only has the jail not had a death since it opened, it’s never had an escape or even a major incident.

He said the jail’s 14 support groups and programs have played a major role in that. “Less than half the jails in the state have the programs we do,” Englehardt said.

He noted that incoming Sheriff Scott McKenna and Undersheriff Jeremy Howe have pledged to not only continue the existing programs, but expand offerings where possible. He said one of the first things Howe did stepping into the undersheriff’s office was sign off on a new program from Lapeer County Community Mental Health (CMH).

The TREM Group (Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model) is aimed at helping prisoners who have been victims of trauma learn to cope with and move beyond the experience. The six-week, 75-minute a week program, like the others the jail offers, doesn’t cost the sheriff’s department anything.

Englehardt said about half the support groups and programs run through the jail are the result of dedicated volunteers. “This is what makes Lapeer special,” he said. “We have a lot of people who really care.”

He said he was “skeptical at first,” when Roy Sexton first approached him about running an anger management and meditation program. But he said it’s been running successfully for seven years.

The other half of the programs the jail offers are funded through outside sources. Englehardt noted last year they had a successful parenting program run through a Genesee County group, but the grant funding ran dry. “We’d like to bring it back,” he said.

Howe said Englehardt, “does a fantastic job of keeping the inmate services updated with their needs.”

“We get a good bang for our buck,” Englehardt said. He said the support programs the jail offers contributes to less angry people, which leads to people who are less likely to come back.

“We do have some successes,” he said, and the jail staff runs into them at local stores where he said it’s not uncommon for a corrections officer to be approached by someone saying they’re a better person for having been in the Lapeer County Jail.

“I was trained by oldschool guys,” Englehardt said. “I’ve seen what works and I’ve seen what does not. A more humane approach turns out a better outcome and cuts down on recidivism.”

He added, “Even if they reoffend, they seem to come back a little nicer.”

Englehardt said some programs, like Thinking Matters and Substance Abuse, have proven to work so well that the county’s judges now require every prisoner to take them. But he said many of those who come to the jail recognize they have problems and ask for help.

“When they understand that the jail and its services are there to help them, they’re not so bitter about their situation,” Englehardt said.

Howe said, “Sheriff (Scott) McKenna and I believe the Lapeer County Corrections Dept. sets standards every jail should operate by.”

Return to top

Copyright © 2009-2018 The County Press, All Rights Reserved

Click here for the E-Edition
2017-01-08 digital edition

Unrestricted access available to web site subscribers

Subscribers to the County Press newspaper can now purchase the complete online and E-Edition of the paper for as little as $5 for three months. If you want a six month subscription to the online edition it is $10 and a full year can be purchased for $20.

Non-subscribers can sign up for the online version for $15 for three months, $30 for six months and $60 for an annual subscription.