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Graduated Inmates to Start Program for City

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Hollis was among two dozen who graduated from Henrico County Jail East’s Recovery in a Secure Environment program last week. Modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, the six-week, 12-step program asks inmates to face their addictions honestly and intensely through group support.

The goal is to get them secure enough in their recovery that they won’t repeat the behaviors that landed them in jail. Richmond inmates came on board when City Councilman “W. R.” Bill Johnson urged Mitchell to observe RISE and ask to participate. Interested in reducing the city’s close to 70 percent recidivism rate — much of which is attributed to drug and alcohol abuse — Mitchell did. “When I visited the program I was blown away,” she says.

RISE costs Henrico County roughly $125,000 a year. But since the initiative began four years ago, its success has widened, says Henrico County Sheriff Michael Wade. So much so, he says, that a representative from the U.S. Justice Department plans to visit June 10 to learn how RISE works. “I think there’s a whole lot of talent in the jail and that’s what we’ve tapped here,” Wade says.

Housed together in “pods” for ’round-the-clock peer support, the program has grown from 20 to 200 participants. And female inmates at the county’s east and west jails have started their own “New Beginnings” program models for recovery. Nearly 1,000 inmates have graduated from at least one of the four phases of RISE.

In June, Hollins and four other Richmond inmates who graduated from the program will start their own version of RISE at the city jail, Mitchell says.

At Henrico’s jail, Mitchell and Hollins converse with another inmate and RISE graduate who has volunteered to go from the county jail to Richmond’s to help start the program. “I’m optimistic,” Mitchell tells them. “But it’s definitely going to be a challenge” deciding who’ll take part and what resources will be.”

It will be called “Believe.” The name is apt. Hollis says that as a result of this program, he believes this incarceration will be his last. — Brandon Walters.

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