SC Justice Center Trustee Shares His Experience Being a Part of the Facility’s Therapeutic Community

Over the last few years, the Starke County Justice Center has implemented some innovative programs to help inmates combat substance abuse disorder.

The Fostering a Recovery Mentality (F.A.R.M) program is one that’s really blossomed recently.

What was once simply an opportunity to get outside and garden now gives trustees the chance, to not only grow food, flowers and other plants but also allows them to create art, decorations and furniture.

Another element that was added last year is the trustees’ ability to participate in community events at the Justice Center. At these events, they sell items to help purchase resources and fund the substance abuse classes that are paired with these outdoor and hands-on opportunities.

In addition to raising money to help fund the programs, these events also allow trustees to briefly visit with loved ones outside of the confines of the facility and personally interact with the community that they’ll be reintegrating into after their release.

Recently, one trustee, referred to as D.W. by friends and family, shared how being a part of Starke County’s therapeutic community has made a major difference in his life.

He explained, “In the past 31 years, I’ve been incarcerated 28 of it in three sentences. I’ve been locked up, right now, it will be 11 years this June. I’ve been at the Starke County Jail for going on 11 months. Coming here changed my life.”

D.W. said that most crimes he committed revolved around obtaining money to fund his addiction. He explained that prior to coming to Starke County he had completed a drug treatment program but said he didn’t take it seriously.

He noted that the impact of serving time at the Justice Center has helped him feel confident that he will not use again.

He shared, “I’ve never been in a jail where they were actually kind to me, where they treated me like a decent human being and it made me want to be better.”

D.W. mentioned how the presence of jail staff and their involvement has an influence on the overall environment of the facility.

From his experience, he observed, “Other places, like the sheriff and the warden and the jail commander and the sergeants, and that, they don’t know who you are.”

He continued, “They get so involved with your life here daily, that they really know. They see you working, they see you trying and they give you that kind word and that push along like they really care about you.”

Another part of the program that really had an impact on D.W’s recovery was his ability to interact with community members during the various F.A.R.M. events. He said once he is released, he hopes to continue with community outreach by providing presentations at local schools to share his story and warn students about the dangers of drug use and addiction.

D.W. mentioned that recovery is an ongoing process, “I know I have to continue with aftercare my whole life but I truly believe in my heart that I am done with drugs and criminal activity and I would have never thought that until I came here.”

He’s said the skills he’s picked up through the substance abuse classes and the work ethic he’s obtained from participating in the F.A.R.M program will be helpful upon his release.

Aside from that, he said he’s received a grant to help pay for aftercare through Porter Starke and has already been making plans to attend AA and NA multiple times a week when he gets out later this year. He also noted that he was able to find a sponsor that he can contact anytime to assist him with his recovery once he is no longer at the Justice Center.

D.W. shared that he is going to be one of the first trustees to participate in a new welding program that’s being offered through the collective efforts of multiple entities within the community. He mentioned how grateful he is for the opportunity to obtain the training because it gives him the chance to be able to support himself as he embarks on his fresh start.

Author’s Note: I want to personally thank D.W. for sharing his story with me as well as the staff at the Starke County Justice Center for allowing me to sit down with him to conduct this interview and continuosly report on the program. As is the case with many people in our community, across the country and around the world, I have lost friends and family members who were struggling with substance abuse. I am honored to have the chance to cover a program that is having such a remarkable impact on the lives of others.