When Matthew Nance was booked into the Jackson County Jail last year, he said he was “a mess,” “broken” and “tore up on drugs.”
He also had been homeless for five years.
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Since being accepted into Centerstone’s re-entry and recovery program at the jail, he has been able to open up and share his story with other men who have been arrested because of substance use issues.
As he wraps up his time in the therapeutic pod and prepares to leave jail and re-enter the community, Nance feels he is ready to continue to receive support from Centerstone and its partners so he doesn’t wind up back in jail.
“I have a plan of action when I get out there, and I can’t really express enough gratitude for that,” Nance recently told Sheriff Rick Meyer, Deputy Chief Dustin Steward, Jail Commander Chris Everhart and Kelly Brown, outreach assessment prevention coordinator for the EMERGE program.
“It means a tremendous amount to me,” Nance said. “It probably saved my life.”
Through the program, Nance said he has been able to identify some of the major struggles in his life that caused him to mask the drugs.
“I thank you guys for taking a chance on me, letting me in here,” he said. “I’m definitely going to gain every tool I can in here and apply it when I get out there. I’ve got a place to go when I get out. They are even going to take me there. I can’t express enough gratitude for this.”
Nance is one of 15 men currently involved in the program.
Toby Atha said he had been in prisons and rehabilitation programs around the state, but it wasn’t until he entered the therapeutic pod at the Jackson County Jail that it made a difference in his life.
From the lessons learned in group and peer meetings to participating in community service, Atha said he has gotten a lot out of the program.
Of recently being able to help shovel snow near the county courthouse for community service, he said. “That meant a lot to me. To trust me to do that made me feel good. This program means a lot. For us guys in here, it’s our future — future of the jail and society. I believe we can all change.”
Brandon Sawyer also said the community service made him feel good.
That along with the curriculum, skills learned from Brown, Centerstone employees and the community partners and peer meetings have made an impact on his life.
“We’re all learning a lot of good stuff in here,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff that goes on here when nobody is around. We all get together, we have our own little peer meetings and if we have a problem, we do things as a group. We have real good fellowship in here.”
In the three months he has been in the therapeutic pod, Sawyer said he has grown a lot.
“And I’ve seen a lot of growth with everybody else and some of the guys that came after me — a lot of good stuff going on in here now,” he said. “I’m happy, and it’s really big for this county. Having this program, I thank all of you guys for letting this happen. It’s definitely saving lives.”
James Hatton said he initially was skeptical about the program from what he heard from others at the jail.
That changed once he was actually in the therapeutic pod.
“This program has given me and all of us an opportunity to live a life outside of here,” Hatton said. “It has given me the tools to be able to control what I can control, and that’s me, my thoughts and my reactions to my thoughts.”
Reid Newkirk said he is grateful for the program because it has given him a second chance.
“Some of us, we’ve caused hell in this jail. We’ve caused havoc,” he said. “For seriously giving us a chance and giving us an opportunity to show you that we really do want to make a change, I firmly believe that every man in here, they do want to change. I feel like everybody in here has an awesome opportunity now to change.”
Newkirk and others also appreciate feeling comfortable opening up and showing their emotions because it has helped in the recovery process.
“I’ve never been in a pod like this where a man can talk to another man about their feelings,” he said. “You don’t have to have a mask in here.”
Brandon Bush said he had been addicted to drugs and in and out of jail for 15 years, and it wasn’t until he shared his testimony in the therapeutic pod that he felt comfortable opening up.
“I’ve not cried in 10 years. My very first day in here, I cried,” Bush said. “I did my opening testimony, and I got stuck because of the things it was bringing out of me. Moral reconation therapy, it made me get in my head, my feelings. It made me recognize some of the underlying character defects that I have had since I was a child that I tried to take on as an adolescent, as a teen, as an adult.”
While he said he’s still not sure where his life totally went wrong, he is learning.
“It has made me take a long, hard look at the better part of my life. It has put a change in my heart,” Bush said. “With this program, I’ve got a lot of tools that I can take out there with me now with the EMERGE program and a whole team of guys like these guys in here.”
Hal Heath also said it has been beneficial to express his emotions in the pod.
“I’ve cried every day,” he said, smiling. “I really don’t care because I feel better inside. Now, I’ve got a second chance. I thank God every single day that I’m in here, and I thank everybody every single day that I’m in here.”
Keith Meredith recently moved into the pod and said it has been a good thing.
“I could see just from walking by, ‘Wow! They are totally different. What’s going on with these guys? I want some of that,’” he said. “I came in here and realized lives are changing and stuff is going on, and it’s not going on anywhere else in the jail. Everybody in here is trying to help each other, trying to better themselves. There’s not a person in here that’s not going after it wholeheartedly.”
Meyer said he is proud of the other men for making Meredith feel welcomed.
“He’s looking up to you guys for guidance, and you’re giving it to him. I think that’s great,” Meyer said. “I thank all of you guys for helping him out.”
The men also thanked Steward, Everhart and Brown for making an impact on their lives.
“Through this program, I feel like I’ve got a chance to be something else besides a criminal,” Sean Moffatt said. “I look up to you guys, and through this program with Kelly, I feel like I can become something better in life, and I appreciate it.”
Nance said the program is not only strengthening the men while they are in jail. When they are released, apply the lessons they have learned and continue to receive support, it’s going to strengthen the community.
“We’re learning the tools right now that we need to take out there and strengthen this community and rid the drugs of this community,” he said. “I think we’re all pretty much taking a stand right now to do away with the drugs. It has ruined enough lives.”