RCSO receives grant for in-house substance abuse treatment program

CONYERS — The Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office is reaching out to inmates who want to change the direction of their lives.

Through a $65,924 grant from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council – and $20,000 in matching funds from the county’s Inmate Welfare Fund and the United Way – the RCSO is set to begin an in-house substance abuse treatment program at the Rockdale County Jail.

Major Mike Kinlein said it is an honor that the Sheriff’s Office received this grant, which was the result of a competitive process. He said the CJCC had considered dividing the award among several other jails in the state, but because of the strength of the local program, decided to give the entire amount to the RCSO.

“We are thrilled,” Kinlein said. “For the past six, seven or eight years, there has been a national trending away from incarceration and trending toward training, education and getting inmates back into society productively. This is a natural extension of this.”

He said this is not just an accomplishment of the Sheriff’s Office, but a community accomplishment. He said that State Court Judge Nancy Bills, Superior Court Judges David Irwin and Robert Mumford, Magistrate Court Judge Phinia Aten, BOC Chairman Richard Oden, Sgt. Dennis Pass, Claire Cline with the United Way and many others were instrumental in helping to secure the grant to bring the program to fruition.

The Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program will serve 20 men and 10 women over the course of the next year who will commit to a 12-week curriculum that includes substance abuse counseling, professional training (or retraining), GED courses or other kinds of counseling, such as moral reconation therapy, which helps refocuse their perspective on morals and values.

“We are making use of dead time. We have their attention for this period of time, and we are willing to train them in developing a new way to look at the world,” Kinlein said.

He said the ideal candidates for the in-house substance abuse program would be repeat, lower-level offenders, most likely with alcohol or drug charges, who are sentenced by the State or Superior courts.

“Someone who is caught up in the cycle of failure that doesn’t want to be caught in the cycle of failure and who is willing and open to changing their life,” Kinlein said. “These are brothers, husbands, wives, sisters – they are just in a cycle of failure.”

In addition to the in-house treatment, the inmates going through the program would be given resources for continuing their treatment – whether substance abuse, mental health or other needs – after they are released. Kinlein said the program participants could be connected with local employers, who themselves are recovering addicts and would be willing to give them a job as they work on their recovery.

Longer term, he said, the county would like to look at some kind of transitional housing that would allow program participants to get back on their feet after being released from jail.

“We have a lot of hard work ahead of us, and our success depends on the willingness and desire of the people in the program,” Kinlein said. “We’re going to offer it and we’re going to try.”