The Genesee County Jail has worked hard to develop their IGNITE program, and they just received a huge donation from an unlikely source.

IGNITE stands for Inmate Growth Naturally and Intentionally Through Education, and its goal is to help inmates with education opportunities.  Inmates have had access to get their GED while in jail, but IGNITE wants to take the learning far beyond that. The goal is to make sure that when a prisoner re-enters society that they have a chance to be in a better place than they were when they went in.

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I talked to Sherriff Swanson when the IGNITE program was first launched, and he was quick to point out that he was not the only person behind the idea. Swanson teamed up with former inmates to develop the idea, and make sure that it would actually benefit the inmates it is meant for. One of the people that helped develop IGNITE is Johnell Allen-Bey. He served 29 years in prison and was at the special check presentation.

The IGNITE program got the news that a group of inmates at the Lakeland Correctional Facility were interested in how they could help the program. The inmates pooled their money together and presented a check to Sherriff Swanson and a group of IGNITE ambassadors for $2,000.

Think about that for a minute. Inmates took what little money they earn while in jail, and donated it to a jail. That's how you know that they believe in the mission behind the IGNITE program. Allen-Bey talked about how big this was considering it came from other inmates.

Look at this check. That means $20,000 in prison. That’s how impactful this moment is here. I feel humbled to stand before you and say it’s all about unifying a community

So far more than 800 inmates have gone through the IGNITE program, and hopefully, other jails around the state and country will adopt this model. It's making a huge difference and is a great first step toward some much-needed prison reform. You can see the launch of IGNITE in the video below.

 

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