Genesee County Jail unveils IGNITE program for inmates



Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson (right), along with retired Genesee County sheriffs Robert Pickell (left) and Joe Wilson (middle) performed the ribbon-cutting honors for the IGNITE program. Photos by Ben Gagnon

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson (right), along with retired Genesee County sheriffs Robert Pickell (left) and Joe Wilson (middle) performed the ribbon-cutting honors for the IGNITE program. Photos by Ben Gagnon

FLINT — Inmates at the Genesee County Jail now have an opportunity to gain a quality education and a new lease on life as they serve out their sentences.

On Tuesday, Genesee County officials and community leaders welcomed a new era for the county’s correctional facility with a ribbon-cutting for the IGNITE program. IGNITE, which stands for Inmate Growth Naturally & Intentionally Through Education, will offer educational courses and skilled trades classes for inmates at the Genesee County Jail.

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said that IGNITE will be a mechanism for breaking the trend of generational incarceration throughout the county, while establishing education and rehabilitation as two main points of focus for the jail.

“In my decades of experience, I’ve seen the same people come through the jail—grandfathers, fathers, sons, mothers, daughters,” he said. “This program is not about making them model inmates, but about changing their mindsets so they never come back and never break the law.”

Inmates who participate in the IGNITE program will be able to access online courses to earn credits toward a GED, learn a skilled trade job or take enrichment courses in everything from American Sign Language to culinary arts. Classes will be held Monday through Friday for two hours a day—an hour before lunch and hour before dinner.

When inmates begin the program, they will be divided into three tiers based on their jail stays: 0-90 days, 90 to 180 days and 180 and beyond. Depending on their ability, inmates can take beginner, intermediate or advanced studies.

In addition to receiving a Chromebook for online classes, inmates will be able to learn skilled trades like carpentry and plumbing through virtual reality programs.

Participation in IGNITE will also be merit-based; the harder inmates work with their studies, the more opportunities they will get for rewards inside the jail like extra family visits and free phone calls.

Since implementing the first stages of IGNITE in 2019, the Genesee County Jail has been testing the program and developing partnerships with community leaders like Percy Glover, a parole/ re-entry specialist in the Flint area. Glover, who spent nearly 12 years in prison himself two decades ago, said that IGNITE will make re-entry into society more manageable for inmates.

“Education is everything,” he said. “Without the training and resources, a person cannot get ahead. IGNITE will give people a path to a better life and an opportunity to build upon skill sets that they’ve developed in the county jail.”

The Genesee County Jail has also partnered with Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools to offer GED classes, high school diplomas and enrichment courses. GTL, the jail’s visitation video and phone service, will also be providing tablets for inmates.

Along with providing classes and job skills, IGNITE is aimed at instilling inmates with a sense of value and purpose.

“The biggest gap in our society is information, and misinformation will lead to crime,” said Jaylyn Boone, a motivational speaker and youth coach who is helping to promote IGNITE. “This program gives these inmates—these citizens—something to look forward to when they leave these walls.”

To learn more about IGNITE, visit gcsomichigan.com.