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Reentry Programs

The Norfolk Sheriff's Office provides many programs to inmates to help them prepare for a smooth reentry back into society once their sentences are served:

  • Priority Automotive Inmate Training Program

    Priority Grads 2022In 2018, Priority Automotive joined Tidewater Community College and the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office to put the brakes on crime and give non-violent offenders a new lease on life through a program called the Priority Automotive Inmate Training Program. 

    “Teaching non-violent offenders to make a good, honest living and put their past in the rearview mirror is good for our communities, good for our law enforcement agencies, and good for Priority,” Priority CEO and President Dennis Ellmer said. “This may seem like an unlikely partnership, but it just makes perfect sense.”

    Ellmer said he got the idea during a trip to Fiji, where he met a tour guide who earned a tourism degree while incarcerated in a local jail. “I thought, ‘Wow, we have to do something like this back home,’” Ellmer said.

    So he did. Not long after his return, Ellmer shared his idea with former TCC President Edna Baehre-Kolovani, who loved the idea. The pair approached the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office, where Col. Mike O’Toole helped bring the concept to life. “We have people coming out of our jail with few opportunities for worthwhile employment because of their past,” O’Toole said. “And with no way to find a decent job and make an honest living, they sometimes resort to old habits and wind up right back here in jail. There’s both a social and financial cost to that for taxpayers. It can be a revolving door that just keeps spinning. This program is designed to put an end to that.”

    After the idea of the program came into vision, Priority Automotive spent more than $1.7 million to build the Priority Automotive Training Center. The training facility is a state-of-the-art automotive center located just behind the Priority Infiniti dealership in Chesapeake.  The Center includes 12 repair bays where offenders work side-by-side with mechanics and instructors to diagnose problems and repair vehicles according to manufacturer standards.  The offenders are trained for a career in automotive repair through a 2-year certified program. 

    The Norfolk Sheriff's Office has been instrumental in the implementation of the program by evaluating and selecting participants, providing transportation to and from class and work, and providing tools and facilities for inmates to study and complete homework assignments. The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office has had a work release program in place for more than 30 years, with inmates working at businesses in the community. “This is a logical next step,” Sheriff Baron said. “Combining our work release program with an educational vocational program is a natural next step in promoting rehabilitation and saving tax dollars by reducing the number of people who return to jail.”

    "It costs Norfolk taxpayers an average of $26,000 to house a single offender for one year," said Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron. “We know over 96% of our offenders are coming back to our community,” Baron said. “We also know former offenders are less likely to return to jail if they have gainful employment at the time of their release. By funding the cost to build the center and pay the trainees’ tuition, what Priority is doing here is nothing short of life changing for these inmates. And great for the community.”

    While the program began as a 2-year certified program with Tidewater Community College,  in 2021 the program switched to Tidewater Tech.  Classes start in September and end in May. Trainees attend class full time two days a week and work at Priority dealerships three days a week. After completing their second semester, trainees will be offered full-time jobs at one of 14 Priority dealerships across Hampton Roads. They will also have the opportunity to continue their education, earn new certifications and even earn an associate’s degree from Tidewater Tech.

    “This is not just about saving taxpayers money or filling jobs at my dealerships,” Ellmer said. “This is about giving these people a sense of worth, a second chance, and an opportunity to live the right way and do the right thing,” Ellmer said. “And we think that’s good for everyone.”

  • "Pathway" - An Educational Journey

    pathwayInmate Educational Pathway is defined as the chosen route, taken by a learner through a range of classes and activities, which allows them to build knowledge progressively. It can be likened to an “educational journey” through classes and content, and eventually reaching their goal or Career Path. All inmates in the Program block will be assigned a Pathway Counselor, advising their inmates throughout the Pathway process, from intake, to class assignments, to graduation and finally release back to the community. Need more information? Call 664-4191.

    Inmate Educational Pathway Programs Offered
    (please note: This is subject to change)

    Instructional Phase 1:

    • Adult Basic Literacy (led by NSO GED teacher and Humanities Behind Bars volunteers)
    • GED (taught by Norfolk Public Schools special education instructors)
    • Humanities Behind Bars (5 classes offered ranging from The Politics of US History to 20th Century African American Music); taught by local professors and educational volunteers 
    • Seven Cities Writers Project (creative writing class taught by local educator)
    • Other Educational Class Instructions

    Instructional Phase 2: "Evidence Based”

    • Alcohol / Chemical Dependency Treatment
    • Anger Management
    • Domestic Violence
    • Balancing Your Life
    • Before and After
    • Choices
    • Fatherhood
    • Motherhood
    • Renewal
    • Thinking for Change
    • 3 Principles
    • Other classes to address Risk Factors

    Instructional Phase 3:

    • Barber Training
    • Cosmetology Training
    • Food Handlers (3 years) or Serve Safe (5 years)
    • Fork Lift Certificate / OSHA (3 days x 5 Hrs)
    • Landscape Design Course (8 Weeks)
    • Money/Financial Management
    • Religious Studies
    • Retail Customer Service
    • Small Business Operations
    • Other Vocational Classes as approved

    Community Partners Identified Phase 4 (Released to Community)

    • Church Groups
    • Non- Profit Org.
    • Others

    See Lifestyles for a description of each course

  • Norfolk Circuit Court Reentry Docket (NCCRD)

    The Norfolk Circuit Court Reentry Docket (NCCRD) is a coordinated effort of Norfolk Circuit Court, Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, Norfolk Sheriff’s Office, Norfolk Probation and Parole, Norfolk Public Defender’s Office, and City of Norfolk.

    NCCRD is intended to develop and promote an effective and efficient system of substance abuse treatment, accountability, and successful reintegration into the community for its participants.

    NCCRD will provide coordinated and comprehensive reentry planning, supervision, substance abuse treatment, case management, and judicial oversight with the goals of reducing recidivism, increasing public safety, and increasing participation in targeted services to meet offender needs.

    NCCRD is a Second Chance Act federally funded program. It is the first of its kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


    Pre-Release Phase: Norfolk City Jail Programming

    6 months prior to release date

    Screened for need/eligibility of the following: Life skills and cognitive thinking, employment skills, anger management, money management, domestic violence education, substance abuse treatment, GED preparation/exam, work release or GPS monitoring, and housing services.

    The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office offers a wide range of opportunities to help inmates successfully reenter society.

  • Lifestyle

    Alcohol & Chemical Treatment

    A 90-day session, taught by members of the Norfolk Apostolic Church, is a series offering class topics ranging from the effects of drugs, to attitudes, and character building. The curriculum is secular in nature designed to help educate returning citizens.


    The renewal program is religious based and ensures the constitutional religious rights of inmates protected under the First Amendment. This 90-day program focuses on assisting individuals to improve themselves and their relationships through spiritual growth, acknowledging and confronting sinful natures, improving personal attitudes and reducing antisocial behaviors.   Female students are also provided class instruction on “Women in Crisis”.


    Students participate in a 90-day program offering successful strategies to prepare them for re-entry into the community. As part of the re-entry series, community partners are offered the chance to virtually meet with our students to discuss programming and available resources when they are released.   Sessions range from meetings with employees and volunteers from non-profits, government agencies, private programs, and mental health providers to obtain group or individualized treatment services upon re-entry. Staff members offer an individualized re-entry plan for each student.


    Fatherhood is a nine-week program, held in 90-minute sessions, that inspires and counsels incarcerated fathers in the skills they need to generally repair, strengthen and/or enhance their relationships with their children, thus improving the quality of life for both father and child. Taught in partnership with Tidewater Community College, the curriculum is designed to create an urgency in participants to play an active role in their children’s lives despite their incarceration.   This program illustrates how that can be accomplished, as well as assists with repairing damaged relationships and enlightens them on how their own children can be the final, enduring motivation to break their cycle of incarceration.

    Loving Steps for Dads Program “A Father’s Footprint”

    This Eastern Virginia Medical School program supports building strong families one man at a time. Through free workshops, case management and mentoring services, men can become the dads they always knew they could be. Volunteer instructors offer education, resources and re-entry programs. Healthy fathers create healthy families and foster healthy communities. Instructors also offer an evidence-based parenting education curriculum, “Fathering in 15” through The National Fatherhood Initiative.


    This is an evidence-based program that encourages cognitive self-change, social skills, and problem solving. Participants learn processes for self-reflection aimed at uncovering antisocial thoughts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs. It prepares them to engage in pro-social interactions based on self-understanding and consideration of their impact of their actions on others. 


    Trained volunteers from Tidewater Intergroup Council of AA Corrections Committee coordinate sessions, in a group setting, with both female and male AA members interested in carrying their message of recovery to alcoholics through virtual meetings and correspondence. Tidewater Intergroup of AA is a fellowship of people in Tidewater, VA who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover for alcoholism.   AA has a pen pal program to support incarcerated alcoholics.

    Volunteers from Narcotics Anonymous offer regularly scheduled meetings for people who want to quit using substances. NA members share their drug-related experiences and provide one another with support, encouragement, and guidance.

    Humanities Behind BARS

    HBB is a grassroots network of prison education programs committed to building inside/outside alliances.   This organization not only offers education programming at the jail, but they also facilitate a reading and film series, an inside-outside study group, a pen-pal program, and organize a local mutual aid network fund. This is all done by the collaborative effort of teachers, students, activists and artists. In the group-based studies, they work with formerly and currently imprisoned people and their loved ones.   HBB volunteers offer tutoring services to eligible students. In addition, these courses are offered: (please note: topics are subject to change)

    • Public Speaking and Communication: A student driven course that identifies different types of public speaking and pursues strategies to engage in weekly composition and practice.
    • 20th Century African American Music: Students conduct historic and critical analysis of African American music covering the 20th
    • Music and Writing: Students write and record songs in diverse musical genres. Lyrics and melodies are collaboratively written, while students gain hands-on experience with the engineering process necessary to produce full-length musical recordings.
    • Introduction to Philosophy: This class is intended to give students an overview of the discipline of philosophy, and to introduce them to a few key figures in the tradition.  

    Seven Cities Writers Project

    This was founded in 2014 to bring cost-free creative writing and literacy support programs to underserved communities. Workshops encourage participants to express themselves in a safe and supportive   environment while homing their writing skills.  

    Courses offered by volunteer instructors:

    • 3 Principles: The empowerment class teaches individuals how to access and sustain inner health and resilience. He class provides support for those who are impacted by addiction, mental health issues and offending behavior.
    • Creative Writing & Poetry:   Workshops offered involve students enrolled in instruction where they write in response to visual and reading prompts, crafting short pieces that share stores from their lives – both challenging and inspiring.

    Anger Management

    Anger counseling is designed to help individuals gain a better understanding of acceptable ways to express anger and eliminate aggressive and self-destructive behaviors. Students enrolled in anger management classes learn to recognize and identify the role of individual responsibility in changing their maladaptive behaviors. Anger counseling or anger seminars offers skills for managing anger, and provides assistance in increasing self-esteem and overcoming insecurity especially in provocative situations. Students learn effective coping behaviors in order to halt escalation and to resolve conflicts; process anger and manage it constructively by understanding its psycho-dynamic; learn to express their emotions and needs; become assertive (not aggressive nor passive); maintain self-control and focus on healthy and productive behavior; and develop effective communication skills. Upon graduating this 90-day program, they become eligible for Anger Manager II classes.

    Landscape Design

    During this 8-week class, students will learn the 12-step process of designing a functional landscape plan. The process includes site evaluation, setting priorities, maintenance requirements, and setting budget. Students will also learn how to organize the landscape space, create a “plan view” scale drawing, and select plant material. In addition, students will have an overview of turf grass and management for the Hampton Roads region. 

    Small Business Operations

    Training provided to inform, empower and bring awareness of the pitfalls and obstacles many face with startup business.   The programs also bring awareness and recognition to all the resource and support available to begin a business upon their release. 

    Barber Training

    Barber training and license course is a 6-month skill based professional barbering program offering classroom instruction and hands-on training. The instructor is a licensed professional barber instructor. Students taking this class should expect to learn study skills, the history of barbering, professional image and human relations, science, infection control, human anatomy, chemistry, professional barbering procedures and the business of barbering. Upon completion of this course, students qualify to test for a Professional Barber License in the State of Virginia.  


    The Motherhood Program provides education, information and support for incarcerated mothers and that allows them to better understand the impact of their incarceration on their children and improve the quality of their relationships with their children and caregivers.  

    Motherhood assists offenders in learning to parent from jail. Communication during the incarceration between parents and their children through letters, phone calls and virtual visits is fundamental to keeping relationships stable and consistent as well as increasing the bond between parent and child.

    Staff work with inmates to match formerly incarcerated individuals with volunteers in the community to provide the social support. This is done by our staff through the re-entry plan prior to the inmate’s release. In addition to communicating via virtual platform and written letters, 2 creative activities will be delivered via US mail to families such as holiday cards, celebrations for mother’s day, father’s day, etc.   Vision boards focusing on future parenting concepts will be designed as part of classroom activities.

    Additionally, in partnership with EVMS and the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Healthy Start Initiative “Loving Steps” program provides free services to help moms and their children re-connect. Healthy Start is a national project created to improve the health of mothers and their children. “Loving Steps,” offers intensive case management services and care coordination by a multidisciplinary team.

    Second Chances

    Second Chances is a 12-week program that consist of parenting, reentry, cognitive behavior therapy, and a letter campaign. Programmatic topics include co-parenting, effective communication skills, impact on the family, and effective listening to name a few. In essence, the program is designed to gradually reintroduce the fathers/mothers back in the lives of the children and provide educational sessions to both parents/caregivers to assist with the reintegration of the father/mother. Throughout the program, the fathers/mothers are encouraged to write letters to their children to assist with opening up the lines of communication. The father/mother has an opportunity to have a face-to-face visit with their child or children. 

    Mindfulness and Mental Health: Let’s Talk About It

    Under the guidance of Kylee Park, PhD. LPC, the “Mindfulness and Mental Health: Let’s Talk About It” program offers a select groups of male and female residents the chance to participate in this project. The program aims to improve mental health literacy and mental well-being of groups via psychoeducational classes on topics such as grief, anger management, mental health, substance use, suicide prevention, communication skills and trauma.

    This project is a part of the HOPES Free Clinic Community-Engaged Learning initiative and also aims to establish a warm hand-off between the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office and the HOPES Free Clinic. Participants will be provided with information regarding the HOPES Free Clinic and their partners if they are eligible and choose to seek medical care through HOPES upon their release.


    Residential Substance Abuse Program is a 12-week intensive program that meets 3 days a week for a total of 6 hours weekly. The program courses and groups consist of cognitive behavior therapy, trauma, grief and loss, and re-entry counseling. The program is designed to educate clients on how one’s thinking influences behavior and to help the client identify and change faulty thinking patterns and self-sabotaging behaviors. Other aspects of the course include being educated on understanding emotions, relapse prevention, and effective coping skills. The client has the option of receiving individual counseling as needed. The client will also participate in transitional planning, be educated on community resources, and will be linked to services to promote success as they re-enter society. The program also has a medication-assisted component in which clients (depending on substance use and recommendations by the psychiatrist) will receive medication assistance to reduce and eliminate drug and alcohol cravings. The client will receive the medication treatment at least 2 weeks upon release to assist in transitioning, and will be linked to a community provider to continue treatment after release.

    CBT Program

    An evidence-based program and a form of psychotherapy that teaches offenders specific cognitive and behavior skills to help them manage depression, mood swings, anxiety and stress.   The client is offered counseling sessions upon their release as part of the CBT reentry plan.

    Addiction Recovery

    The Addiction Recovery Program provides participants who have co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues a treatment program offering cognitive behavior treatment therapy with group and individual counseling from licensed clinical therapists, reentry classes and services, and trauma informed care classes. Begun in 2017, over 270 inmates have participated in the program and program graduates have shown to have a reduction in recidivism of over 50%. This program is funded through a grant provided by the Department of Criminal Justice Services.

    Call 757-664-4191 for information!

  • Addiction Help

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Program

    A court ordered, 90 day Individual and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Program for individuals with co-occurring disorders (one or more substance abuse disorders and one or more psychiatric disorders at the same time). Funding for this program will serve 15 offender groups each week for three years and excludes state inmates.

    CBT is a form of psychotherapy that teaches offenders specific cognitive and behavior skills to help them manage depression, mood swings, anxiety, stress, etc.

    Addiction is a disease. Focus is to learn about addiction process and how alcohol/drugs have affected the offender’s body and life.

    Group sessions focus on the desire to use, recent relapses, struggles with potent emotions, and/or conflicts with other group members or family members.

    One treatment plan addresses both substance abuse and mental health needs. Integrated services are important because people with co-occurring disorders have a better chance of recovery from both when they receive combined or integrated mental health and substance abuse treatment from the same clinician or treatment team. 


    The Addiction Recovery Program aims to help our inmates with substance abuse and other mental health issues address their illnesses and prepare for a better life upon their release from incarceration. It is designed to provide co-occurring substance abuse and mental health inmates a treatment program offering cognitive behavior treatment therapy with group and individual counseling from licensed clinical therapists, reentry classes and services, and trauma informed care classes. 

    The goals of this program are to decrease recidivism, enhance public safety, and close gaps in the existing continuum of care to the city’s vulnerable populations. This provides programming and release plans for mental health inmates with an in-custody program prior to their release from custody. We are the first Sheriff’s Office to offer this kind of treatment in Virginia. It was funded by a $48,000 grant from the Department of Criminal Justice Services.


    Each Thursday, eligible inmates participate in weekly NA/AA group alcohol and drug treatment. Classes for men and women are on Thursday nights. The Tidewater AA Council provides the group counseling service.

    For more information, call us at 664-4191.

  • Educational Programs


    The GED Program’s curriculum is designed to enhance the basic skill level of offenders who need more instruction in order to pass the General Educational Development (GED) test.   This program is taught by NSO staff using GED Academy, an online mobile-friendly course that teaches students exactly what they need to know to pass the GED test. Using built-in practice tests, the adaptive learning system creates a personalized learning plan for each student, bypassing skills they have already mastered. Calvary Revival Church and House of Esther committed to this partnership via donations of tools, services and equipment in order to increase opportunities for a diverse adult student population.

    In partnership with the Norfolk Public Schools and in accordance with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), educational services are provided to inmates under the age of 22 with a history of special education. The program provides services in the areas of GED skills, basic academics, remedial reading, and social skills. A variety of teaching techniques and expertise are implemented to ensure the learning of inmates who exhibit a variety of disabilities and learning modules are met, using GED Academy.

    Tidewater Community College

    The Jobs Skills Training Program (JSTP) has developed a comprehensive approach to job skills training and job placement for individuals with barriers to employment. The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office is in partnership with TCC to provide case management, job internships, workforce readiness training, and job follow-up. These 8-12 week programs are offered at no cost for the student. Specialized programs offer customized training for individuals who are incarcerated ranging from welding to certified food manager. JSTP Workforce Solutions offers re-entry programming for returning citizens upon completion of their certification. To qualify, participants must be a parent (between the ages of 18-30 with children 5-18 years old and qualify for RSVP funding).

    Department of Justice (DOJ) Adult Reentry Education

    In partnership with Norfolk Public Schools, this program seeks to expand and improve the academic and educational programs available to students to pursue obtaining their GED through competency-based learning and instruction.  Participants are low, medium and high risk for recidivism and low to medium risk for violent tendencies, with some high risk individuals included based on their incarcerated behavior record.  Students will be divided into two groups – Adult Basic Literacy and Adult Secondary Education.  Placement is based on testing results on the test of adult basic education (T.A.B.E.).  By partnering with our jurisdiction school system, we can provide seamless continuation for educational development for participants.  The primary goal of the program will be to expand and improve our educational offerings with support from instructors and facilitate successful completion with the aim of reducing recidivism and increasing participation in targeted groups.  By providing opportunities for education and the skills to succeed after leaving custody, we strive to build a stronger, better community one student at a time.