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Jail honors first RSAP graduates

Mooresville-Decatur Times, The (IN) - 5/7/2016


On Thursday, 14 men and 10 women in the Morgan County Jail were fitted with tools for a new life thanks to a pilot program for people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Two of the female inmates have already gotten out of jail.

Called RSAP or Residential Substance Abuse Program, it is an intense, 90-day education in recovery. And although the final outcome of this program depends on the addicts, there are many more support players who have teamed up to help them. As their families and children gathered to cheer them on and take another stab at hope, the graduates talked about their life changes and what it means to have God and mentors in their lives.

The Morgan County Jail is the first in Indiana to try the in-house recovery program. That's because jail commander David Rogers and Morgan County Court Services Director Carol Kinder saw an opportunity to help the community and lower the recidivism rate for chronic addicts. Rogers said the recidivism rate is between 70 and 75 percent in Morgan County.

The classes began for these inmates in January. It is a collaboration between the jail and Community Corrections and received $117,000 from the Indiana Department of Corrections to help inmates stay sober, find housing, jobs and school opportunities after they are released.

Even their jail uniforms had a change in color - from the usual orange to green - representing a fresh start. Their teacher, mentor and counselor named Gus Matthias wore a green tie to match their clothing. He, too, is a recovering alcoholic and worked with volunteers from AA and NA (Nacotics Anonymous), staff members, former inmates, local churches, judges, probation officers and law enforcement on RSAP.

As the graduates received their tokens and bookmarks, they hugged and shook hands with Gus, John West of Community Corrections, their friend and recovering addict Bran Lester and Rogers.

"You have transformed yourselves to have a life outside of this place, with the support of your group and your family," Rogers said. "There are no shortcuts in life - no shortcuts to happiness. You thought drugs would give that to you, but in the end, drugs always fall short."

Rogers told graduates that once their friends and families were running away from them because of their addiction. But now they are coming back to them with support and encouragement for their efforts to get clean. He added that good feelings come from good relationships.

He thanked Jim Reed of Community Corrections for his help getting RSAP fully funded. He welcomed judges Pete Foley and Matt Hansen to the ceremony, as well as Tim Coryell, the drug arresting officer, who wanted to see the program working.

"Don't forget where you came from and remember the caring people who helped you recover," Rogers said. "I wish you all well."

Gus said all of the people involved in helping the inmates were stepping up to give them a hand when they got out.

"You'll have all our numbers - you can call us for help or even if you need a ride somewhere," Gus said. Recovery is not for sissies. It's a simple program, but it's not easy. Addiction is a progressive and fatal disease.

"You must give yourselves to this program, you must be honest with yourselves - even those with mental disabilities can get clean if they're willing to go to any lengths for recovery."

Gus said the graduates will find a new freedom and a new happiness. By practicing serenity, he said they could find peace.

"God is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves," Gus said. "The self-seeking will slip away, and the insecurities will leave us."

West also praised the group.

"You have come along way, you were a tough group - you sort of had to feel each other out, but the road has been amazing," West said. "It's been a journey of ups and downs. You're at the top of the roller coaster right now. The challenges will be great, but look at the people who are surrounding you."

Kinder had bookmarks made for each of the graduates. She recalled seeing their tears in the beginning of RSAP, but she was glad they were beginning to feel their emotions instead of hiding them behind drugs and alcohol. She urged them to respect themselves and others, to follow the Golden Rule.

"It's been a wonderful experience," Kinder said. "We've finally teamed up with the Department of Corrections for the money and staff."

The graduates speak

One recovering addict Bran Lester, who had served time in the Morgan County Jail, said he sees himself as proof that recovery is possible.

"It's been a long road for me ... but I made a decision to get clean and start giving back to my community," Lester said. "I want to make it great again.

"It's by God's grace that I'm standing here. Gus kicked me out of the program 12 years ago. When you get out, you can come sit in on our classes and support new inmates. We're all here for you. The program works if you work it."

Some of the graduates read poetry and one man thanked the Martinsville Baptist Tabernacle for sharing Jesus Christ and the Bible with him.

"Thanks for sharing your spirituality with us and for teaching God's word to us. I can say to myself that if God is against it, so am I," he said. "The Bible teaches that we are a new creation, the old has passed away."

A female graduate said her group needed to practice honesty, acceptance and humility.

"It was an emotional journey, and we've done it together," she said.