WCSO awarded three-year, $1 million grant for recovery program

Published 8:15 am Wednesday, January 25, 2023

JONESBOROUGH — The Washington County Sheriff’s Office recently received notification that it is the recipient of a three-year, $1 million grant from the State of Tennessee’s Office of Criminal Justice Programs for an Evidence-Based Programming Project.
“The grant will give us funding for three years to implement and track programs that are proven to decrease recidivism and break the cycle of generational drug abuse,” explained Sheriff Keith Sexton. “To attack the drug problem in our region, we have to do more than arrest people. We have to create change. Once we release them, they cannot go back to the situation that put them in jail. This grant is the first step in obtaining the resources needed to show them there is a better way.”
Programs funded by the grant will impact 100 male inmates and 100 female inmates each year of the program. Families Free, a not-for-profit that provides faith-based programs to promote positive lifestyle changes through education and intervention, will serve as WCSO’s partner providing the programs within the Washington County Detention Center.
“Our focus is on re-entry into the community and providing them with the tools they need to be productive,” said Lisa Tipton, Executive Director of Families Free. “We are leveraging all the resources available and using the judicial system as a point of entry to change lives.”
WCSO will hire two additional officers dedicated to the program in an effort to expand the current work release program and address workforce shortages in our region. A behavioral health specialist will join the detention center’s medical team as well to provide mental health assessments and therapy for inmates.
The evidence-based programs include:
• Moral Reconation Therapy – a systematic treatment strategy to increase moral reasoning.
• Seeking Safety – a counseling model to help people attain safety from trauma and/or substance abuse.
• Cognitive Behavior Therapy – a form of psychological treatment that is effective for a range of problems, including severe mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse problems.
• Nurturing Parenting – assists in family reunification and addressing the needs of parents and children such as improving living situations, employment and education.
Melody Castle Kestner, MSW, LADC II, Re-Entry and Mental Health Manager for Families Free, will manage the daily activities surrounding the overall program.
In addition to those specific, evidence-based programs, Families Free will provide education and information on community resources to support inmates upon release. Specifically focusing on supporting positive outcomes when transitioning back into the community, assistance could include housing vouchers, transportation, recovery support services, documentation procurement, driver’s license reinstatement, job placement, vocational training and career development.
Families Free will provide licensed or licensure-track alcohol and drug abuse counselors, clinical supervision, materials for programs, off-site counseling for inmates upon release and assistance in accessing programs available from community partners.
“Our goal is to rehabilitate, not continue to incarcerate,” Sheriff Sexton said. “I tell inmates all the time the next time I see them needs to be outside of the detention center working and making a difference. We can either help them make that happen, or saddle taxpayers with building a bigger jail. I don’t want to build a bigger jail.”

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