News from the desk of Sheriff Potter


"Innovations Behind Bars: DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office Approach to Reducing Recidivism"
Dear DeSoto County,
Remember the days when jails were just grim places meant for locking people up and throwing away the key? Well times have changed, and so has the purpose of our correctional facilities. While they still serve to detain and punish, we've added something new to the mix to tackle one of the biggest issues in our criminal justice system: Repeat Offenders.
At the DeSoto County Sheriff's Office we're all about growth and development, even for those in our care behind bars. We've introduced something called the Paytel inteleTablet™ system. It's a game-changer that makes it easier for inmates to connect with their loved ones, meaning no more waiting around for a phone or Homewav kiosk. Additionally, this can impact the reduction of contraband introduction into our correction facility.
But it's not just about communication; the tablet system also provides our inmates access to the "Pathway to Achieve™" educational platform. The platform provides courses that are tailored directly to fit each individual’s specific needs, learning style and personal goals. With this platform we give inmates a chance to learn new skills that can help them make better choices in the future.
Ever since we introduced the Pathway to Achieve program in the jail, inmates now have access to vocational, educational and self-improvement programs, Monday through Friday, for up to 12 hours each day. Before diving into any of these programs, each inmate must complete something called a "Risk Need Assessment." This helps us determine which courses or programs will benefit them the most.
The inteleTablet™, generously provided by Paytel at no cost to the DeSoto County Sheriff's Office or taxpayers, has been a game-changer. A third-party study estimates by providing these educational opportunities to just one individual with these tablets would cost approximately $1,731.09 annually. Thanks to Paytel's commitment to this free service, our county stands to save $967,679.31 each year.
Let's look at some numbers from our annual report (May 2022 - May 2023) to gain a better understanding of the impact of these initiatives:
- 27,968 total hours of learning: This represents the collective hours individuals within our care have spent engaging with educational content.
- 201,859 total courses completed: This signifies the number of courses successfully finished, reflecting detainees' dedication to self-improvement.
- 2,147,759 total credits earned: Credits earned through these courses demonstrate tangible progress and the acquisition of valuable skills.
- 559 total active learners: This represents the number of individuals actively participating in educational programs, highlighting their commitment to personal growth.
- 115 individuals reached "Platinum" status: These individuals achieved remarkable success, earning a "Platinum" designation due to their substantial credit accumulation.
- 12 Steps to Recovery program - 944 hours total spent: This program has proven to be the most utilized, underscoring the importance of addiction recovery support within our correctional facilities.
GED Program:
  • 337 individuals started: A significant number of detainees have began their journey toward obtaining their high school diploma equivalency.
  • 2,455 hours spent learning: This reflects the dedication and effort put into gaining essential educational credentials.
  • 34 individuals completed all 167 courses: A notable achievement, indicating a commitment to securing a brighter future.
- 559 individuals completed the Risk Need Assessment: Nearly all detainees completed this assessment, reflecting a high level of engagement.
- 483 of these individuals went on to take the Pathway to Achieve Courses: A remarkable 86% engagement rate, demonstrating a strong desire for self-improvement.
These statistics reveal the profound impact of our efforts to allow inmates to take responsibility for their actions through growth and learning opportunities. Through initiatives like the inteleTablet™ system and the Pathway to Achieve educational platform, we are committed to breaking the cycle of recidivism and fostering a safer, more prosperous community for all.
As we continue to strive for positive change within the criminal justice system, I thank you for your support and commitment to a brighter future for DeSoto County.
Sheriff Jim Potter