PCC, PCSO Teaming to Reduce Female Detainee Recidivism

Representatives from Pitt Community College and the Pitt County Sheriff's Office take a group photo following the signing of memorandum of understanding outlining a new partnership between the organizations. Seated are Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance and PCC President Lawrence Rouse. Standing, from left to right, are: PCC VP of Strategic Initiatives Johnny Smith, PCC Re-Entry Program Coordinator Ralph Soney, PCC Asst. VP of Outreach/Community Engagement Ernis Lee, PCSO S.H.A.R.P. and W.E.A.R. Coordinator Jason Jackson, PCSO Grants & Special Projects Administrator Lora Maynard and PCSO Social Worker Kiera Clemmons.

WINTERVILLE—Pitt Community College and the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) are partnering to provide services that will help incarcerated females successfully re-enter society upon release from the Pitt County Detention Center (PCDC).

On Wednesday, PCC President Lawrence Rouse and Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance signed a memorandum of understanding that calls for the Sheriff’s Office to actively refer female detainees and those recently released from PCDC to the college for transitional support services. Pitt will assess the referrals to identify potential barriers to their future success and determine their specific training needs.

“I’m always excited when Pitt Community College can partner with local organizations and help members of our community become productive citizens,” Rouse said. “Teaming with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office is a reflection of the college’s commitment to educational equity. Everyone who wants a PCC education should have an opportunity to access our programs and services and succeed in them. We don’t want to leave anyone behind.”

PCC Re-Entry Program Coordinator Ralph Soney said a grant Pitt received from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation will fund services detainees receive through the partnership. Soney, who is assisting with the transition of PCSO’s re-entry programs from the recently dissolved Life of NC initiative to PCC, also noted that while female detainees are the partnership’s primary focus, services will also be directed toward all detainees age 45 and older.

Through the grant, PCC will provide the following services geared toward reducing the recidivism rate among females upon release from PCDC:

  • Services to help women transition from the detention center
  • Access to health care services, including substance abuse and behavioral health
  • Employment, training and educational attainment
  • Access to child care and other related family services
  • Coping strategies for dealing with issues posed by intimate relationships

For Sheriff Dance, partnering with Pitt is about “giving people the opportunity to do better.” The goal, she said, is to meet detainees where they are and provide them with the tools and resources they need to improve their life’s circumstances, no matter how many mistakes they’ve made in their lives previously.

“As long as they are breathing, there is time for people to change for the better,” she said. “… It’s about giving people a pathway to success.”

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, PCC partnered with PCSO to provide general education, adult high school proficiency, life skills, resume writing and job readiness training at PCDC. The training was offered to inmates participating in PCDC’s Sheriff’s Heroin Addiction Recovery Program (S.H.A.R.P.) and Women’s Empowerment and Recovery (W.E.A.R.) initiative.

“We were just getting started with our work with PCSO when COVID struck in March 2020 and stalled our progress,” said PCC Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Johnny Smith. “But we’re back on campus and committed to fulfilling our mission to educate and empower people for success. We recognize that the college must help individuals at PCDC re-enter society and to get things right when they receive that opportunity.”