Summit County Sheriff’s Office always seeking volunteers
Nearly 30 rehabilitative programs are offered to inmates
For more than 25 years, Martha Lucia Gonzalez De Paul has volunteered with various organizations as a way of giving back to her community.
In an email to The Park Record, Paul, who lives in Salt Lake City and is a Park City business owner, said volunteering brings a sense of completion to her life and provides “more happiness and meaning” than any paid position.
In February of 2008, Paul began devoting her time to inmates at the Summit County Jail, which offers more than 30 rehabilitative programs. She referred to it as “one of the highlights of her life.”
“It’s very rewarding to work with a population that most people forget about,” Paul said in the email. “The public view is that once an individual commits a crime and gets caught, the normal consequence is to punish that behavior. And with that belief, comes the perception that everyone must just forget about them and leave their rehabilitation to the institutions in charge of them.”
The classes offered through the Summit County Jail cover parenting, anger management, gardening, religion and various other topics. Some of the programs, such as the Inmate Worker
Program, are only available to state inmates, who typically serve longer sentences.
The majority of inmates at the Summit County Jail are people who have committed a crime in Summit County and were sentenced to serve out their time here, while the rest are inmates of the state, according to Sheriff Justin Martinez.
“Offering programs has been around for a while, but not since the beginning,” Martinez said. “There was that old adage that: You commit a crime, you do the time. There was really nothing there to help them be successful.
“I think, as we have evolved in the corrections, our main objective is to reduce recidivism,” he added. “We are changing our philosophy to provide them with some tools that will possibly help them.”
Martinez said most programs are volunteer-led. Members of church and civic groups often donate their time, along with several individuals from the community, like Paul. But, he added, “There is always a need for more volunteers.”
“We have a really healthy pool, but sometimes our volunteers are busy,” Martinez said. “We can’t always guarantee there will be someone here every single day to lead classes. There is always a need for more help and more ideas about classes that would benefit the inmates. We are always open to those.”
Paul said there is always a “huge need for volunteers–just regular individuals who are willing to share their time and skills with the inmates.”
Using resources, such as materials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Corrections, in addition to her own personal knowledge, Paul came up with the Learning from the Inside Life Skills Program. The program educates inmates about anger and stress management, spirituality and causes and consequences of drug abuse, among other topics.
“During each session, we focus on each aspect and students express their points of view,” Paul said. “They share their experiences, learn how to behave as regular people, and, most importantly, make amends with themselves.”
Paul, who owns Alter Creations, said she has had to reduce the time she spends at the jail recently. But, she added, “The call to go back often and share my knowledge, my time, and my life experience with them is quite strong, so I always return.”
“I truly believe that we come to this world to serve people who are different from us,” Paul said. “I can say without exaggerating that if I could, I’d be a full-time volunteer. So please roll up your sleeves and come help us help others.”
For more information about volunteering at the jail, call the Sheriff’s Office at 435-615-3500 and ask for Sgt. Ken Jones.