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Long Road to Recovery: Sheriff's Office graduates first drug treatment program class
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Kicking a drug or alcohol habit is a long, hard road, and the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office recently launched a program that helps inmates start that process even before they leave the jail and follows them after they are back in the outside world.

The RCSO recently celebrated its first Rockdale Residential Substance Abuse Treatment graduation at the Rockdale County Jail. The graduation included 11 graduates who completed a 90 day intensive substance abuse recovery program.

The RCSO launched the grant-funded program with the aim of reducing repeat offenders. Jail officials recognized that most inmates incarcerated in jail will be released and will become the neighbors, co-workers or family members and friends of the rest of the community.

The RRSAT program is funded through a grant awarded to Rockdale County by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in partnership with United Way and the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office.

The Rockdale RRSAT program targets inmates who have a substance abuse problem and who commit and demonstrate a desire to stop using illicit drugs and alcohol. Participants are provided with the tools needed to help them stop the pattern of addiction and promote good decision making. The Rockdale RSAT participants are housed in a dorm that is separate from other inmates and provides a community atmosphere that is conducive to recovery and positive change. During the past twelve weeks, this group has completed over 200 hours of recovery programming which includes intensive substance abuse prevention classes, individual counseling, parenting skills, anger management, domestic relations, job readiness, relapse prevention, character development and support classes for health education, vocational skills and a physical fitness program.

The typical day includes breakfast at 5 a.m., vocational training in the morning and early afternoon followed by an inspection of their living areas, physical fitness training and on some days a community meeting. Immediately after supper, their core recovery classes start and on most days last from 5 till 9 p.m.

After an inmate is released back into the community, their connection to needed resources and recovery programming is critical for their success. This includes completion of an aftercare plan for each participant and careful monitoring by a case manager for up to one year after their release from jail. Assistance may include additional out-patient or residential treatment, housing, job skills, employment and other needed resources. For many, this is the first step to a beginning which we hope will break the pattern of addiction and lead to a productive lifestyle. This will benefit the participant, their families, and the community and help break the cycle of re-offending.

"The RRSAT program not only impacts the Sheriff's Office, but the entire County," said Sheriff Eric J. Levett. "Rockdale County is very fortunate to have been awarded this grant and have so many local and community leaders who have supported this program with a lot of hard work in order assist participants in their recovery."

One participant of the program said, "This is the best thing that has ever happened to Rockdale. I maintain that the best thing is breaking the chains of addiction so that the Rockdale County Jail becomes a productive part of their past while the future opens up a life beyond these bars."