Ark. county jail inmates undergo substance abuse program

Six men and two women have graduated since the detention center opened more than three months ago

Associated Press

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Touted to transcend warmed over brick-and-mortar approaches to community safety, the new Garland County Detention Center and its $42 million price tag were sold to the public on the premise it would do more than warehouse inmates.

The value added to the community could be seen Oct. 1, as four inmates graduated from the facility's substance abuse program, a public safety enhancement jail officials said is every bit as critical as the physical barriers that gird the 168,000-square foot facility.

"You can't just put them in jail and do nothing," Lt. Belinda Cosgrove, the facility's program services director, told The Sentinel-Record. "They're eventually going to get out, even the ones going to prison."

Six men and two women have graduated since the detention center opened more than three months ago. The Oct. 1 ceremony included the first graduate who entered the three-month program under court order. The rest came to it voluntarily, submitting applications reviewed by Cosgrove and substance abuse coordinator Chris Skeya.

The 20 men and 20 women currently enrolled run the gamut from offenders serving misdemeanor time, pretrial detainees being held on felony charges and those awaiting transfer to the Department of Correction. The men are segregated in a housing area separate from the general population. Women live in the lone housing unit dedicated to females.

Participants are required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the morning, Celebrate Recovery classes at night and do independent study during the day. Completing the Love & Logic parenting class, obtaining a Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy certificate and a GED are also compulsory.

Cosgrove said the detention center's partnership with National Park College's adult education program now allows the full battery of GED tests to be taken at the jail. Graduating the substance abuse program allows inmates serving misdemeanor sentences to reduce their jail commitments by up to 10 days for every 30 days served.

Skeya said resources and support systems aid a lasting recovery that can withstand temptations waiting to ensnare graduates after they're released. An exit plan is paramount, he said, estimating that more than half the graduates will return to addiction-enabling environments.

Arrangements were made for one of the Oct. 1 graduates to live at a local shelter, as many of them have no place to go post-release.

Chief Deputy of Corrections Mark Chamberlain, the jail's lead administrator, acknowledged the graduates' commitment, but admonished them to stay vigilant, stressing that graduation is but one marker on the road to a larger, personal commitment.

"The commitment isn't to the sheriff's office, to Chris, lieutenant or anybody in this room," Chamberlain said. "It's to yourselves. Keep that in mind. This is a step. It works if you work it. The next step is yours."

Several program participants who attended the ceremony commented that they now have hope they can break the pattern of recidivism that's estranged them from stability.

Capt. Ronnie Branstetter, the facility's security director, told the graduates he looks forward to seeing them apply the program's principles outside the detention center.

"You have no idea what it means to me to see you guys make this step to better yourself," he said. "It will mean so much to me to be able to see you guys out in the free world and doing well. Please keep it up."

Skeya told the graduates he hopes it's the last time he sees them in a correctional setting.

"My payoff for this job isn't a check," he said. "It's when I see you at Wal-Mart or at the mall or hanging out with your families and friends. When I see you again, I want to see you at your job or with your family at the park."

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