Twenty-four-year-old John Holland says if he had not committed a crime, he might never have received the help that put him back on the straight and narrow.
“When I got down to the AIR block, it helped because it was something to do during the days,” he says. “And that’s a problem, when you’re up in the regular blocks you’re just kind of sitting around, watching Jerry Springer and Maury all day, and it’s horrible.”
Jail might seem like a funny place to receive help, but Holland is part of the Addicts in Recovery, or AIR, program an addiction recovery program run by New Leaf New Life, a volunteer-run organization that tries to curb recidivism through work inside the jail. Up to 12 prisoners can participate in the program simultaneously.
Because nearly 90 percent of people in the jail struggle with some kind of addiction, New Leaf New Life focuses much of its energy on substance abuse support groups.
Board member Wain Martin says that the organization will soon be able to expand those transitional programs thanks to a grant from Perry Township. Perry’s local non-profit incubator donated free office space, and volunteers hope the grant will help the non-profit make strides towards reducing Monroe County’s high jail recidivism rates.
“What we would like is a therapeutic milieu that starts in the jail and continues outside it because both of those are needed by many of the people.”
Monroe County Sheriff Jim Kennedy has allowed volunteers in the jail for years. He says that while it would be nice to have government-funded programs like this inside the jail, there are some benefits to having a citizen-run non-profit instead.
“These people see over a long period of time what actually goes on within the jail, how people are treated, how they’re fed, how they’re taken care of medically and otherwise,” he says. “And they, as citizens, have a certain amount of credibility perhaps with the community that people perceive that maybe we who work in it don’t have. So they can actually act as a set of eyes and ears for the community.”
Because of space limitations, any further expansion of New Leaf New Life programs will have to be outside the jail. Kennedy says he wishes that he could give more space to such programs, but in an already crowded jail, he just cannot afford it.