Stimulus Money Aids Inmate Treatment, Addiction Programs
By Amy Lester, Oklahoma Impact Team
UNDATED -- Inmates in Oklahoma are getting help to beat drug or alcohol addictions, thanks to the federal stimulus package.
"Without the stimulus money, there's a very good likelihood these programs would not exist," said Clint Castleberry, Programs Administrator for the Department of Corrections.
The Department of Corrections received $755,860 in stimulus funds. The money came in the form of Justice Assistance Grants from the U.S. Department of Justice through the District Attorneys Council. Eight prisons will use the money for rehabilitation, along with parole officers for a new female diversion program.
"There are some things that are the right thing to do, you just can't put people in prison and just throw the key away," said Ines Hamilton, Psychological Clinician at Jackie Brannon Correctional Center.
Hamilton said the $85,860 her prison received is much needed. The money is paying for two fulltime and one part-time counselor for one year. The prison has a six month intensive treatment program.
"We are fulfilling the mission of the Department of Corrections which is number one, to protect the community, protect society, protect the state of Oklahoma," said Hamilton.
Inmates learn about the benefits of healthy relationships. They understand the "Three R's" which happen without a support system. They are relapse, reincarceration and regret.
"I hope sobriety will be the biggest key to my change," said inmate Marion Robertson. "Taking this class is helping a lot of people."
While many of the inmates are court ordered to go through the program, once involved, they notice it makes a difference.
"There's a better way, better options, just change your way of thinking," said inmate Jason Rummel. "I came in as a skeptic and thought these were worthless, but I'm taking things with me to use with friends who are addicted as well. I know it will work."
According to the Department of Corrections, 81.49 percent of men in the program at Jackie Brannon and other facilities do not reoffend.
But, not everyone believes that this is where stimulus dollars should go.
"It's just not the best use of money at least in my estimation, it has no long term value," said Vince Orza, Dean of Oklahoma City University's Meinders School of Business.
Orza suggests roads, bridges and education as better areas for stimulus money expenditures.
"That would seem to me to be a better use of tax dollars. That's not to say that somebody with a drug problem doesn't deserve help, but you have to make the hard decisions, where's the best place to spend the money," said Orza.
The Department of Corrections administration disagrees. Since the money is responsible for saving or creating 38 jobs, they argue it stimulates the economy. Also, it prevents DOC from shutting down programs.
"I think it holds equal merit to all of the areas they have funded through stimulus, it certainly allows us to retain jobs as well as impact safety as a whole for the state of Oklahoma," said Clint Castleberry, DOC Programs Administrator.
DOC can apply to receive the money for an additional year. So far, the agency has lost 275 treatment spots because of state budget cuts. The Department has used federal funds for these programs for years.