Corporal Keely Ray, an Allen County prison officer who served 16 years in prison, has seen the desperate side of drug addiction.
The slide into drugs, petty theft to feed the addiction, missed court dates, incarceration, painful detox in prison, release that sends inmates back to their old ways, and sometimes, in this era of fentanyl-laced street drugs, not- fatal and fatal overdose.
You may have seen Ray in court in Allen County, standing up for an inmate because the system often reinforces the downturn and hopelessness that a family and an addict feel.
Ray has also experienced the problem of substance abuse in her own family. With tears in her eyes, she says her 23-year-old daughter has been drug-free since April 2021.
Ray is now the Allen County Jail’s JCAP coordinator, a program that helps addicts at the end of their rope through counseling, introspection, book work, and life skills training. The 12-week Jail Chemical Addiction Program offers no incentive other than to beat the addiction. No penalty reduction, no special benefits.
Allen County is the 10th county in the state to implement JCAP, a recovery program that has a proven track record of working.
According to the state website, Dearborn County’s JCAP program “is credited with helping to reduce the number of repeat drug abusers by more than half.” Approximately 43 percent of general population inmates in Dearborn County are re-arrested after being released. In contrast, only 18% of JCAP graduates are arrested for new offenses upon release.”
“JCAP participants are segregated from others in the prison population and are expected to spend at least 90 days in cognitive behavioral therapy,” the website reads. “Social workers at master’s level conduct group and individual counselling. A key to long-term success is creating solid follow-up treatment plans once participants have completed their sentences.”
Research shows that people with substance abuse will relapse and relapse before they get clean. They usually hate themselves as much as their families hate what’s going on, says Courtney Jenkins, JCAP’s Kosciusko County coordinator for the past four years.
Still living with the nightmare of a son battling addiction, she says in her experience 95% of addicts suffered physical or sexual abuse when they were young. While others may try drugs and not develop an addiction, an addict needs the drug to cope.
Prior to her appointment to this position, Ray was responsible for prison transportation and worked with male and female inmates.
“We needed someone who understood the prison’s working environment, and on top of that, after speaking to Courtney (Jenkins), someone who was knowledgeable about addiction. And what better way than to have a current employee who is sadly confronting someone or is the parent of an addict,” Hershberger said. “There’s a delicate balance between holding a person accountable for the wrongdoing, but giving them that opportunity for change and that hope of change.”
Seven years ago, Ray’s nightmare of having a family member on drugs began.
“I didn’t understand that until it affected my own child,” Ray said. She had to learn to understand her own child. “It was a year clean. Today is a good day.”
Ray said that success is “all about wanting to change,” but “Addiction is a vicious circle. You have damaged every relationship. You are in the legal system. They have no support.” With JCAP where they can get counseling and treatment, “they will also make connections that will help them rebuild and repair the damage they’ve done,” Ray said.
Ray said that one of the first steps is to acknowledge the problem.
“First you deny. Until you admit you have a problem, you’re not ready. You can try (recovery), but until you’re willing to change, until you admit you have a problem, even at that point, you may have had multiple relapses…because of that strong hold, that change in chemicals your brain, you can and do recover.”
In Kosciusko County, 86% of inmates have a chemical addiction, Jenkins said, and that’s almost the national average.
Hershberger said prison staff would have liked to have started JCAP earlier, but because of overcrowding, there wasn’t enough room to set aside a block for the program. Enrolled inmates are held together as they journey on the healing journey.
“The prison was so full we couldn’t have done it if we wanted to,” because of the ratings that require inmate separation. It was nine, but now it’s ten because of the program, Hershberger added. “We now have a room or block area that we can assign to this group.”
Jail is the last resort for these individuals, who are often imprisoned after violating the terms of probation by one of the problem-solving courts.
“If they stumble and fail, they eventually end up back in prison,” Hershberger explains. As of Friday, there were 172 inmates in jail for probation violations, 24 community corrections violations, 10 circuit court violations and one inmate in jail for reentry court violations. The numbers rarely fluctuate greatly.
JCAP tries to create an environment that inmates are willing to accept. “You have to get her clean and sober first. Then “give them the tools and resources to make that change in their own lives,” Hershberger said.
Ray said there are many resources in the county. It’s about bringing them together. With this program, housing is a process that’s already begun, she said, if that’s an issue. Second chance employers will come by for mock interviews.
https://www.wane.com/news/new-substance-abuse-program-at-allen-county-jail-is-here-jcap/ Allen County Jail’s New Drug Abuse Program Is Here: JCAP