Unique program lowers number of former inmates returning to jail

Also provides drug prevention programs in schools

Project Transition is an 11-week pre-release program made possible with funding from the United Way of St. Charles.

Some five to eight groups on average per week get assistance from mental health clinicians to provide life skills, money management, anger management, as well as family and social reintegration, said Amanda Walker, Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse for Greater New Orleans’ director of clinical service.

“It’s a pretty intense program,” Walker said. “They have to make it through the whole 11 weeks without any problems in jail. They have to be model inmates to stay in the program.”

The program’s graduation celebration is a success story at Nelson Coleman Correctional Center for CADA.

“The graduation is a very special part of the program because participants are allowed to have a contact visit and pizza with their family members,” Walker said.

The program averages a 90 percent success rate in former inmates not returning to the jail.

“We’re looking at the main goal of the program decreasing the number of people going back to jail,” Walker said.Visitation is done by television monitor, not personal contact. Walker said, depending on the jail sentence, some inmates may not have family contact their entire time there.

“During the graduation mothers can hug their sons, significant others can embrace their loved one, and fathers can hold their children,” she said. “This contact visit strengthens family bonds and provides healing for families who have been without their loved one due to their incarceration.”

Walker praised the jail staff’s help with making the graduation possible, particularly when lack of those services would have required inmates go to other parishes to get them. This way, they keep contact with family, which provides the support they need.

Graduates leave jail 120 days earlier by completing this program.

“We usually serve somewhere around 80 people a year,” Walker said.

The program is a collaboration with Catholic Charities, Creative Family Solutions and Child Advocacy Services.

“We each take a piece of the program so we’ll be able to also offer them assistance beyond being released like housing, financing or substance abuse,” she said.

Linsey Prevost, director of prevention services, said CADA also provides a program in St. Charles Parish public schools called “Too Good for Drugs.”

The 10-lesson program is available at no charge to public and private schools.

Prevost said it comes in grade-appropriate lessons aimed at mitigating risk factors and enhancing protective factors related to alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, as well as promotes making healthy choices.

CADA also provides one-time presentations to organizations, community and school groups to educate participants on the dangers of substance abuse and strategies for prevention.

The organization’s mission is to empower community members to build a safe and healthy future through prevention, treatment and recovery support services that foster resilience and well being.

CADA views addiction as a preventable, treatable disease. “It’s incredibly valuable because all of this money helps us target our services,” Prevost said. “The community is really generous in giving to the United Way and it has more ability to decide the services the community wants and supports.”


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