Pitt Co. inmate substance abuse program recognized nationally
Programs launched in 2019, already producing positive results
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office is being recognized for its efforts to help inmates struggling with drug use. They started two programs in 2019, one for women and one for men, and now they’ve received an award from the National Association of Counties. WITN talked to two people who worked directly with the inmates in the programs. They explained how they work and the many successes they’ve celebrated.
“I know I’m helping somebody. There’s no question about it,” said Jason Jackson, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office Program Coordinator. He’s talking about providing help in a place we don’t always expect: the Pitt County Detention Center. Jackson coordinates the S.H.A.R.P. and W.E.A.R. programs - both, focusing on addiction recovery for inmates. “They all have drug-related charges, whether it’s using, selling, or theft related to it,” Jackson explained.
The National Association of Counties gave the programs the Achievement Award of 2022. “I think it’s very important to show that, if we can do something this impactful in a community this size, there’s no question that a larger jurisdiction can’t do the same,” Jackson said.
Kiera Clemmons is a social worker at the jail. She said initiatives like this aren’t common in a jail setting. “A lot of programs are in a prison, but you always skip the jail, and a lot of times this is a place that they stop before they go to the prison, if they go, or they may go back into the community,” she explained.
The recidivism rate, or the percentage of people who end up back in jail after getting out, is 40 percent in the state according to the North Carolina Justice Center. Programs like these are focused around lowering that number, but even one person bettering their life is a success story for Jackson.
“It’s a great thing when I get a phone call a month later, ‘Mr. Jackson, I’m still out,’ ‘Mr. Jackson, I’m sending you this picture,’ or, ‘Me and my wife are getting married again,’ or, ‘We’re going on vacation,’” he said. “These things are simple, but you have to realize, they never had 50 cents in their pocket because every dime went to drugs.”
Jackson says they keep their programs small. S.H.A.R.P. and W.E.A.R. only have around a dozen or fewer inmates each, at a time. Since the programs started, about a hundred inmates have been part of it, and very few have returned to serve time.
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