A Grayson County Detention Center inmate who wished to remain anonymous, is talking about the 6-month Substance Abuse Program (SAP) he, along with five other inmates, have just completed.
The story is the same for the others. All six were headed down a destructive road of substance abuse with no return, one that began when each was barely a teenager.
Then fate intervened and they were arrested, sent to the detention center and chosen to enter the program started by Jennifer Eskridge, TRIAD Program Cordinator, in 2005.
After receiving funding from the State Office of Drug Control Policy Eskridge began the task of finding and setting up the curriculum for a SAP program, also known locally as the TRIAD program.
TRIAD stands for Treatment and Recovery Initiative for Alcohol and Drugs. This program helps offenders understand their criminal and addictive thinking patterns of behavior lead to continuos destructive behavior, and helps each individual find a way to change that behavior.
There are four phases to the program; Intake and Orientation, Criminal and Addictive Thinking, Drug and Alcohol Education, and Relapse Prevention. Parenting with Dignity Classes, Money Management, Resume Building and Anger Management also are part the curriculum developed by Eskridge.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Don Van Netta conducts introspective group treatment for six months with the participant and each inmate is required to complete his education and get his GED. He also is involved in the Work Keys program. This aspect helps ensure success upon release from prison with the hope each person becomes a successful member of society.
Several churches hold services and Bible studies and volunteers from the local Alcohol Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous also participate with the TRIAD program.
Developing the SAP program in a therapeutic community is built around a lot of love, support and determination.
It is a group of individuals that have a common goal: to find a new positive outlook in life. Although there are a lot of people there to help the inmates, the difference is really made by the individual inmate.
The program is designed to make each person police himself and hold himself accountable for his own actions. This is something that had not happened in the life of any of the six graduates before the program.
“I wish you could see how far these guys have come in the last six months. I could not even get them to make their beds when they started the program,” Eskridge said.
Jamey Basham, 25, described his meth addiction and the effect it had on his life. He had been arrested so many times he quit counting.
“I never thought when I was a kid that I would end up here. I wanted to be someone. I was tired of going nowhere; all it has Continued from Page 1
gotten me is heartache and hurt.”
Now, Basham feels he has his feet on t he right path and his life will improve. He attributes the changes in his life to SAP.
“I could have gone anywhere and done anything.” he said. “I had every opportunity growing up and I am my own worst enemy. Now, I want that American dream -- wife, kids, the white picket fence.”
The same story is told over and over as each inmate is interviewed. It is the same for a local father of three, Jody Mercer, 31.
He began his drug use at 14 and got into a little of everything. After going before the parole board and receiving a 9-month flop, sent back to serve nine more months of hie term, the board recommended the SAP program.
Mercer, only two months into the program, found himself looking closely at himself. “I have always wanted to change and SAP has shown me how to change. I feel like now I can go out there and be a dad to my kids.”
As each inmate described his life he also told what a difference SAP made in his life.
The goal of the program is to find a positive outlook for each inmate. That goal is set at the beginning of the 6-month program and not all participants graduate, but those that do give praise to the program.
The first group started with 14 men and graduated eight. The latest group started with eight and seven graduated. Eskridge attributes the success of the second group to the fact the program is more organized.
“We had a better understanding as to what worked and what did not work with the second group,” she said.
The SAP participants are separated from the general population and tend to rely on each other for more than just friendship. The program is set up so that participants police themselves and hold each other accountable for their behavior. The group decides consequences and is self-motivating.
“In the beginning we all had our own thoughts, views and ideas and, trust me, it is hard to get eight lying, cussing, drug- addicted convicts to come together as a group and actually care about each other, but somehow, Ms. Jennifer led us in that direction and the end result was eight men that have found out what having a true friend really means.” said another graduate of the program.
“We have learned what it means to be a true friend and have true friends. We have discovered what it truly means to have respect and concern for the people around us.“ Statistics say that nine out of 10 inmates return to prison. SAP hopes to change those odds and return none of the graduates back into the system.
Another recent graduate, Demetrius Smith, 34, told of being a 14-year-old when he began this downward spiral that landed him in the program.
He had numerous arrests and three convictions, all for drug use. He is doing a 5-year sentence and hopes to be paroled soon so he can become a parent to the six children he has fathered.
He says he hopes to open a barber shop or go back to cooking. He says he has more than just the hope to be successful in the outside world. SAP has given him skills he had lacked before.
He spoke of his children and spending holidays away from them. For the first time that meant something to him, and it is something he hopes will never happen again, he said.
Thirty-year-old Rob Davis graduated from the first SAP class on May 19, 2006, and was released from the Grayson County Detention Center on the same day. He tells a story similar to the other participants.
He had numerous arrests and a life that was headed nowhere. He called himself a dealer that lived for self satisfaction only.
“I was a dealer, an addict, a liar and a cheater with self serving motives and I would do whatever I wanted to please me,” he said.
He recalled that he was 5 years old the first time he tried drugs and at 15, he found himself living on the streets. He was arrested this last time for trafficking heroine and possession of an illegal firearm.
He told of the flashy lifestyle of a drug dealer, with flashy women and lots of money all the time. The drugs controlled his life to the point that two days after being shot he was back on the streets dealing. He had a bullet hole in his stomach and arm. All that mattered were the drugs, he said.
It was not a great revelation that led to his participation in SAP. He just wanted to make parole and felt like his chances would be better if he completed the program.
Once he joined the program, though, he said he found himself taking a hard look at who he was and stopped making excuses for why he did drugs and alcohol.
“The program made me realize my part in everything, quit blaming, quit rationalizing....,” he said.
Today he is living in a halfway house in Louisville and attending Jefferson Community College.
He is working towards becoming a drug and alcohol counselor to help kids. He has completed his first semester of college with a 3.0 and hopes to finish this semester with a 4.0.
When asked what was different for him he said, “My environment is different and my outlook is different. Life's not easy. Things show up,” he said.
“I just look at things different. I am just a regular guy now,” he said.