Mental Health Jail

El Paso County Deputy Billie Mahan makes her rounds to check on an inmate in the maximum security area for women at the county jail. Many of the inmates in the maximum security area have mental health issues.

The Vera Institute of Justice, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit, has announced that Colorado will participate in its prison mentoring program known as Restoring Promise.

The organization described Colorado and the two other states selected, North Dakota and Iowa, as being willing to “replace a punishing correctional culture rooted in our country’s history of racial terror with one that values accountability through cultural healing, racial equity, and human dignity.”

Restoring Promise brings in incarcerated mentors over age 25 to support younger inmates in their personal growth. Prison staff also receive training.

“We know that the key to reducing the recidivism rate in Colorado is to improve the culture inside the prison, both for those who are incarcerated, and for the staff who work inside the walls every day,” said Dean Williams, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. “With 95% of incarcerated individuals returning to our communities at some point, providing programs that focus on rehabilitation and redemption not only improves prison safety, but also increases public safety as well.”

“60 Minutes” reported earlier this year that the program model came from Germany, where there is a heavy focus on rehabilitation of prisoners.

The Vera Institute of Justice indicated that the mentees will “deepen their connection to their culture and healing, cultivate an ideology of self-determination, and restore relationships with family and community.”

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