Program Targets Rehab Help for Federal Inmates
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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
As NPR's Laura Sullivan reports, it only took a decade to get here.
LAURA SULLIVAN: Ten years ago, D.C.'s reentry program was a mess. James Lanier(ph) was trying to place parolees in treatment, but drug addicts were ending up in housing programs. Sex offenders wound up in drug programs, and many got no help at all.
JAMES LANIER: Folks who reentered just came back into the city without any services in most cases.
SULLIVAN: So Lanier created his own plan - a 30-day intensive course to figure out what kind of program each parolee needed and to get them to embrace treatment. The results were stunning - his offenders were 35 percent less likely to get rearrested. He begged for money, and last year he finally got it. Congress gave him 15 million to rehab an old city building, and 15 million to house 102 parolees a month.
LANIER: Unidentified Man: How you been?
SULLIVAN: Here is a seven-story building compound at the edge of the city. Kevin Lineberger is leading a group of 18 former inmates in a counseling session. He's pointing out the window to buildings next door and says it's a warning.
KEVIN LINEBERGER: Unidentified Man #1: Hospital.
LINEBERGER: Unidentified Man #2: Jail.
LINEBERGER: Unidentified Man #3: Jail.
LINEBERGER: Unidentified Man #4: Cemetery.
SULLIVAN: These one-hour sessions go on all day long. Psychologists test offenders for everything from reading skills to mental illness. There's even acupuncture therapy. One floor below, discussion leader Adrian Thurston(ph) has another group engaged.
ADRIAN THURSTON: What was the feeling? You told us about the thoughts. You told us the whole story. What was the feeling?
SULLIVAN: Unidentified Man #5: So how did you work through all this? How did you negotiate that anger or whatever while you've been up here?
INSKEEP: Unidentified Man #5: Okay.
INSKEEP: You know what I mean? And taking in the information, man. That's all.
SULLIVAN: None of the doors here are locked. The former inmates don't have to stay. But they're participation is a condition of their parole, so they could be sent back to prison. And that makes a lot of the offenders upset at first.
INSKEEP: Yes, I was angry. And somewhat, I'm still angry.
SULLIVAN: One newcomer in jeans and a sweatshirt is leaning far back in his chair. He says it's not fair he has to be here. Thurston asks what the group can do to change his mind.
INSKEEP: You tell me to stay focused. I do need y'all and I do need help, because I am mad for real. And man, becoming aware of that. I do need this program. I do need it. I truly need it.
SULLIVAN: Counselors here say the hardest part isn't necessarily an addiction to drugs, but to the drug lifestyle. Counselor Linwood Wright was one of the first offenders in the original pilot program.
LINWOOD WRIGHT: I spent 20 years in the streets of D.C. just selling drugs and using drugs and doing everything else that came with it - sex, drugs and money.
SULLIVAN: Now, Wright is one of the center's most effective counselors.
WRIGHT: When I got here, I found out that these people were seriously trying to do something, you know, like teach some old dogs some new tricks. If you want to stop going to jail, okay? If you want to your life to get better, you're going to have to abide to this process.
SULLIVAN: Laura Sullivan, NPR News, Washington.
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