ROCKINGHAM — Since February, 117 people from Richmond County struggling with addiction, locked up in or released from prison — and their family members — have graduated from a program designed to help them build the skills to turn their lives around.
The program is a 60-page American Community Corrections Institute life-skills course that takes participants on a journey to find the roots of the negative issues in their lives. Daryl Oliver, executive director of Safer Communities Ministry, expanded the program into Richmond County in February and since has given out 260 booklets.
All it takes to be eligible for the course, he said, is “the desire for change.”
“If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you keep getting what you’ve been getting,” Oliver said Wednesday.
Once a person finishes the course, he receives a certificate that can show a judge the person is committed to assimilating back into civilian life, Oliver said, adding that a judge might then issue a lighter sentence.
The program includes courses for substance abuse, anger management, domestic violence, parenting and cognitive awareness.
Oliver will work with Ernie Walters of Refuge Recovery when Walters moves into the new Place of Grace campus in East Rockingham.
SCM has been involved in such work in Union County for 35 years, Oliver said, and only 15 percent of those completing the program have returned to prison after four years — compared to the state average of 50 percent.
A child whose parents are in and out of jail and engaged in drug activity also is highly likely to be jailed, he said — part of a negative cycle.
“You can’t measure the impact on a family of going from that kind of life to a godly life,” Oliver said. “We’re not just talking about behavior modification but godly transformation.”
A court-appointed legal guardian for a person who sought out the program called it life changing. (The person asked not to be named.)
Oliver also told the story of a former participant who flagged him down on the street, saying he had finished his booklet.
Oliver, confused because he wasn’t aware the man had been in trouble, asked whether the man needed to take the booklet to court.
“No,” the man said; he wanted to show it off to his estranged wife.
Daryl Oliver, right, poses with Kenny Roller of the Richmond County Jail. The two have partnered to provide life skills training to inmates in Richmond County.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]