A successful residential program to help jail inmates fight drug addiction and take accountability for their actions ended several months ago after federal funding for it was slashed.
Residential Substance Abuse Treatment, or RSAT, operated in the Washington County Detention Center for nearly 12 years. But officials learned late last year that the federal grant that funded the program would end.
“We had about 300 successfully graduate from RSAT,” said Sheriff Ed Graybeal. “We were the only one in the state sill operating the program at a county facility.”
Without the $100,000 from the Department of Justice each year to pay for RSAT, and no other funding source, Graybeal was forced to end it.
RSAT has been so successful that the two county Criminal Court judges rave over it.
Judges Lynn Brown and Robert Cupp had a long-standing policy that if an inmate graduated from the intensive yearlong program, they “earned their way out” of jail.
Inmates were given a furlough to look for a job or place to live prior to being released on probation.
The judges even made it a habit of asking the successful inmate to approach the bench and shake his hand. Sometimes, the judges even left the bench to shake an inmate’s hand.
In recent days, both judges expressed from the bench their disappointment that the program’s funding ended.
Inmates entered RSAT voluntarily and there was always a waiting list of those who wanted to participate in the program.
There are still self-help programs available in jail if inmates want to take advantage of them, Graybeal said.
One of those programs is GED classes, which has also seen a high success rate. Since 1999, almost 400 inmates have obtained their GED while in jail.
Other programs include Project Hope, an AIDS awareness program, Families Free and parenting classes, AA, a program presented by the Gideons and several church services each week.