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First Graduates Praise Drug Treatment Program

Two inmates who finished the sheriff's addiction-relief regimen are optimistic about staying clean.

March 08, 2001|JENNIFER MENA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Orange County Sheriff's Department showcased two of the 10 graduates of its progressive drug-and-alcohol-treatment program Tuesday in an effort to win additional support for the project.

Both men said that if it hadn't been for the 3-month-old program at Theo Lacy Branch Jail in Orange, they might be headed back to jail instead of pursuing lives with their families.

The inmates spend 6 1/2 days a week in a special area of the jail learning about their addiction, anger management, parenting and the medical effects of addiction.

The program, the brainchild of Sheriff Mike Carona, began in November after county supervisors approved $1.6 million for it. Supervisors have not decided on a permanent way to fund it.

Inmates enter the 64-bed program voluntarily. About 80% leave jail and voluntarily enter substance abuse residence programs, Sheriff's Lt. Mike Heacock said.

"I was tired of coming to jail. For me, it was like a revolving door," said Bill Lindley, 49, who was arrested Sept. 11 on a charge of being under the influence of drugs and will be released next week.

His fellow graduate, Steven Stout, 40, agreed: "I was tired of waking up in gutters, in strange places." Stout, who said he used methamphetamine intermittently for 20 years, was convicted of possessing stolen property.

Heacock said it was too early to know the program's success rate, but he added that the sheriff hoped to have an indication within six months.

Carona's goal is to expand the program to 500 beds "to break the cycle of incarceration," Heath said. Addicts are repeat offenders whose criminal behavior can be stopped, Heath said.

Stout, now living in a residential treatment program in Costa Mesa, said the jail program "was different. People always would put me down, call me a drug addict. [The jail program] let me admit it [to] myself. If it weren't for the program, I would have gone out and used right away."

Instead, he is working as a construction worker and attending meetings of various self-help programs.

Lindley is looking forward to joining Stout in the residential program after his release March 16. Then he will go home to his four children and wife in Buena Park.

His wife "is ecstatic," he said. "But I've burned her so many times, she's waiting to see if it's real."

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