VALPARAISO | More than 40 male inmates at the Porter County Jail graduated from the 10-week Chemical Dependency and Addictions Program on Wednesday morning, a program through Porter-Starke Services that has been helping prisoners kick alcohol and drug problems for the past 10 years.
Gwen Schilling who heads up the women’s portion of the program, said that there have been 2,028 graduates over that decade with a recidivism rate of just under 50 percent, much better than the 67 percent national average for all such programs.
“I like to think it’s because of the quality of our program, and that’s the feedback we get,” said Schilling.
She said that about half of those in the program suffer from alcohol addictions while the other half suffers from a drug addiction, mainly from opiates. The number of meth addicts has declined, due in part, she believes, to a major meth lab bust in 2010 in Kouts.
During the ceremony, Sheriff David Lain spoke about inner strength, choices and paths in life.
“You worked hard. Own it. And you lived long enough to do it. You made it and you have the chance to keep making it. You can’t give up,” said Lain, who also told the group that he was proud of them.
In attendance were members of Porter-Starke’s staff, including CEO Rocco Schiralli who stressed that the graduates now had people, tools and resources always available to them.
A number of graduates read “goodbye letters” to their addictions, bravely standing up in front of the packed room to face their demons.
“Dear alcohol. I think about all the good times and bad times we had together, but I have to let you go. When I hang out with you I only get into trouble. I hope you understand, I need to be free. I have lost my job and you put me in the Porter County Jail and you made me lose 440 days of my life,” read one graduate.
Another read, “I remember when I was 5 and took my first drink and that led to smoking marijuana. Now I’m in jail and it’s all due to my drinking. I have lost everything. So long, farewell, and goodbye red Solo cup.”
Yet another read his letter addressed to Xanax and Vicodin, “when I was sad you’d make me feel better and I thought we’d be together forever, but then things took a turn. I do not want to be with you anymore. I need to let you go. If I don’t, you will surely drag me back to prison or the grave.”
Many of the graduates will then be released as part of their court order, but others face sentencing, some for crimes like homicide.
But Kimberly White, head nurse at Porter-Starke, told the group that no matter where their path in life takes them next, they all have one thing in common.
“Today means hope. You have hope,” she said.