Educate first-time offenders

It’s hard to learn from the mistakes we make. Because of that tough truth, we appreciate the idea behind Columbiana’s Alabama Therapeutic Education Facility, which was dedicated Sept. 16. The center’s mission is to turn lives around and give prisoners a chance to redeem themselves. That’s a tough thing to do, and any place that can help accomplish that goal deserves accolades.

We just hope that’s what actually happens. Prisoners who enter the facility will be given a choice, and it’s not guaranteed they’ll always make the right ones.

But with such resources as counseling, classes and job training, as well as treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, any inmate should have the tools he or she needs to get back to a good place in society.

We also understand that this center will be seen as a type of pilot program. Gov. Bob Riley is already hawking the facility as a prototype for others soon to come across the Southeast.

If the Columbiana center works well, we’ll likely see more of these centers. If it doesn’t, backers will think twice before supporting another one. It’s important, especially considering our prison population problem, that the center becomes a success story.

It should also be a boon to the local economy, since it looks to create more than 200 jobs.

Some citizens of Columbiana will undoubtedly be uncomfortable with the idea of prisoners in their community. That’s an understandable reaction, especially in a tight-knit community. But these are nonviolent prisoners who stand a chance of making the right choice and making a difference in their lives.

If the center helps cut down on the number of repeat offenders filling up our prisons, it’s a good thing and a great investment for the city.

We say is the Shelby County Reporter’s weekly staff editorial.