New program helps inmates ‘R.I.S.E.’ to reclaim their lives

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson announced a new program for the jail to help inmates “rise.”
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 6:25 PM EDT
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GENESEE CO., Mich. (WNEM) - Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson announced a new program for the jail to help inmates “rise.”

Genesee County has an educational initiative called I.G.N.I.T.E. and the sheriff’s office is now celebrating three years of helping inmates help themselves.

While the I.G.N.I.T.E. program has received praise from across the country, Swanson said something was missing.

Swanson announced the new R.I.S.E. program on Friday, Sept. 8.

“When you come to this county jail, you will be given an opportunity to reclaim your life,” Swanson said.

Swanson is passionate about giving inmates in the jail the tools they need so they never end up behind bars again.

“I feel like a success. I’m 10 months clean now, I’m in recovery housing, I want to go back to school. I’m really happy. Honestly, God saved my life through the criminal justice system,” said a former inmate.

Swanson celebrated the three-year anniversary of the jail’s I.G.N.I.T.E. program, which stands for “inmate growth naturally and intentionally through education.” Now he’s announced a new program that will compliment I.G.N.I.T.E.

“When you have an ignition inside the jail, you need somebody to ‘rise’ up when they leave. Thus, R.I.S.E.,” Swanson said.

R.I.S.E. stands for “reach, inspire, serve, and empower.”

Kelly Ainsworth, project director for the Greater Flint Health Coalition, explained what R.I.S.E. is.

“It’s a collaborative effort of non-profit social service agencies that want to compliment and add to the I.G.N.I.T.E. model,” she said. “Providing peer recovery, recovery coach services for people as they enter the jail, providing support for behavioral health as they return home, and connecting them to after care planning for social needs services.”

Ainsworth said R.I.S.E. will serve people with mild to moderate offenses who will be returning home within six months.

“We have a team that say, ‘Hey, when you leave, do you have a home to go to? Do you have food? Do you have medical benefits? How about your family? Do they have any of those things?’ So we’re not just supporting individuals, we’re supporting families, communities,” Ainsworth explained. “We want to do things differently because we want to transform lives.”

Swanson shares this goal, and he said the impact of this program will be felt far and wide.

“When you keep people from coming to jail, everybody wins,” he said.

R.I.S.E. is funded by the state’s Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Use Program and administered by the Michigan State Police.

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