Brittney Lofthouse — Staff Writer

On any given day, 95 percent of individuals incarcerated at the Macon County Detention Center are dealing with some kind of drug or alcohol issue. Inmates in the Macon County Detention Center are continuing to work toward overcoming their addictions thanks to a program called Prime for Life implemented by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and Appalachian Community Services. Seven new inmates graduated the program last week.

“One hundred percent of the inmates every session have told us at the conclusion of the courses, ‘If not for their current incarceration they more than likely would have not sought help for their addiction or accepted the help and guidance to change their lives,’” said Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland. “All have agreed that this was a huge opportunity for them and appreciate the fact that we were there not only to hold them accountable but to support and encourage them to make better decisions for themselves and their families.”

Sheriff Holland always concludes his graduation ceremony by saying, “You all are worth saving and every one of you have someone who loves you.  Many of you have burned lots of bridges with your family and friends because of your addiction but those people still love you.  Once you are released please reach out to the resources we have made you aware of.  Please know that If you fail… don’t give up… and try again.  You are absolutely worth it!”

Inmates in the Prime for Life treatment program have a variety of reasons for being in jail. From drug-related arrests or sentences for drug charges to probation violations, breaking and entering and other crimes. Regardless of what landed them in jail, the Prime for Life treatment program provides inmates with an opportunity to seek treatment while serving time in the jail. 

Prime for Life, which was first implemented in the Macon County Detention Center last April, seeks to help inmates break addiction. It is an evidence-based motivational treatment program to address drug and alcohol abuse and apply decision-making skills for life in general. Prime for Life is taught at the detention center by Howard Dowdle. 

Prime For Life is specifically designed for people who might be making high-risk choices. This includes but is not limited to impaired driving offenders, college students, and young people charged with alcohol and/or drug offenses. It is designed to change drinking and drug use behaviors by changing beliefs, attitudes, risk perceptions, motivations, and the knowledge of how to reduce their risk of alcohol and drug-related problems throughout their lives. Because Prime For Life includes both prevention and intervention content, it is also designed in a way that serves universal, selective, and indicated audiences with program delivery options for each.

According to Holland, the inmates volunteered for the program understanding that he/she would receive nothing in return for taking the class except support and assistance in their road to sobriety and making better decisions in their lives.

“Fact of the matter is that I believe those who need help for their addiction have to want help in order for it to work,” said Holland. “If someone in our custody asks for that help, then because of this program we will have a resource and we are more than willing to help and support their efforts.”

Inmates participated in the program all day for a week. After inmates who participated in the program are released from jail, Appalachian Community Services has continuing service plans to help aid them on the road to recovery. There is also a second phase of the program that is provided for inmates who are still incarcerated. 

Since the program’s inception in the Macon County Detention Center a year ago, Prime for Life has seen 56 inmates graduate from the program, with seven new graduates completing the program last week.