Corrections/Jail Innovations of the Year Award

2016 Corrections/Jail Innovations of the Year Award

Chief Jailer Tommy York

Clarke County, Georgia

In the nineties the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office experienced the common problems unique to jails, capacity concerns, lack of rehabilitative resources and services, and high recidivism rates. These issues placed an overwhelming burden on the Clarke County Jail and the criminal justice system that it serves. Sheriff Ira Edwards, Jr. recognized the need to address these deep-rooted problems, and upon his election, created a programs coordinator position assigned to the Clarke County Jail. The responsibilities of this position included implementing and scheduling the rehabilitative, educational, and religious activities and services at the jail. Sheriff Edwards named Tommy York as the first programs coordinator in 2001. In 2010, York was promoted to support commander and has since been promoted to chief jailer. 

The Clarke County Sheriff’s Office is proud of the leadership demonstrated by Chief York.  His efforts have delivered the various rehabilitative and reentry programs to the inmates in the Clarke County Jail. Some of the primary programs he has implemented include Make a Change (MAC), an anger management/self control class, General Education Diploma (GED) classes, and a job readiness class.

Chief York developed the MAC program in 2004, it is the signature program at the jail. It is a 20 hour class combining cognitive behavioral intervention, release planning, and community guest speakers including social service providers and successful ex-offenders. Facilitators teach participants mindfulness, emotion regulation, relationship skills, and nonviolent communication skills, and social workers facilitate reentry planning to help offenders with transition back to the community. Since its implementation in 2004, approximately 450 inmates have graduated from the program. 

An examination of the MAC program’s recidivism rate from March 2004 to October 2014 indicates that more than half of MAC graduates (54%) have been arrested either one or less times since completing the MAC program. This reduction in the recidivism rate as a result of programs like the MAC class, along with the other treatment and diversion programs across our local criminal justice system has no doubt played a role in the long-term reduction in the inmate population at Clarke County Jail. 

Chief York was also given primary oversight responsibilities for the local jail construction project. This was an enormous task that required countless hours in organizing, planning, coordinating, and preparing the building for occupancy. Chief York had the vision to integrate the programs unit as a main component to the construction of the new jail. As a result, the new jail has a centrally located multi-media equipped programs classroom that is next to the programs offices. Each housing unit has a classroom, which can be supervised by the unit officer, allowing the sheriff’s office to bring specific programs to each housing unit, thus reducing inmate movement within the facility. This design feature creates a more efficient delivery of programs to the inmates, thus increasing the number and variety of programs offered at the jail without increasing the number of staff.

Chief York has worked over the years as an advocate for those who need spiritual, physical, psychological, and emotional support. His qualifications and hard-working approach have placed the sheriff’s office as a top tier organization in delivering innovative programs to inmates. This has resulted in lower recidivism rates, less violence, and a safer jail facility that has reduced the rate of attrition over the last 5 years. 

This award is new to NSA. It was created to recognize an individual for their innovative contributions made to their jail or correctional facility. The award is sponsored by ARAMARK Correctional Services.


Previous Winners

2011   Jeffrey Jarvis - Brevard County, FL

2012   Lieutenant Todd Calkins - Rockwall County, TX

2013   Major Ricky Frye - Loudoun County, VA

2014  Deputy John Russell - Yavapai County, AZ

2015  Sergeant Richard “Todd” Bailey - Pinellas County, Florida