Metro Corrections officials blame overcrowding on inmates detoxi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Metro Corrections officials blame overcrowding on inmates detoxing

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Leaders at Louisville Metro Corrections blame some of the jail’s overcrowding concerns to the amount of inmates detoxing from drugs and alcohol.

“On any given day, we are actively detoxing 40, 50, 60, 90, been as high as 130 inmates,” Metro Corrections director Mark Bolton said.

In an already overcrowded jail, leaders are taking a different approach with inmate addicted to drugs or alcohol. They started the Enough is Enough program in 2008, with less than 30 male inmates struggling with alcohol abuse.

Now, the program serves thousands of inmates every year. They are housed in dorms together, have closer contact with medical staff and take classes to learn coping skills. There are three dorms for males and one for females.

The substance abuse program coordinator for the jail, Ken Wright, explained on a tour of the jail Wednesday that these inmates have illnesses, and he helps them to change how they think about it.

Wright has more than 30 years of experience in substance abuse and gang-related programs.

“I think the community needs to understand they’re not bad people trying to get good,” Wright said. “They’re sick people with a disease trying to get better.”

The female dorm, designed to hold 24 people, is home to 30 women. Sixteen of them are in the program, and they are responsible to look after the other 14 women actively detoxing.

“So once one of the ladies come in here that’s detoxing, two women are assigned to them, to her, to take care of her needs," Wright said. "That means if they take them to the shower, they got to clean them up. If they’re puking and all that, they clean them up.”

Wright said detoxing is an agonizing experience, and the inmates are physically ill in the process. There are red bags next to each bed, in case an inmate needs to vomit.

But there is also a level of freedom in these dorms. The female inmates are allowed to be creative and color and write messages of hope and encouragement, which are plastered all over the walls. These inmates also have textbooks they read and discuss during class time.

According to statistics provided by Metro Corrections, nearly 3,000 inmates detoxed in the jail in 2012. Last year, that number reached nearly 10,000. More than half are detoxing from opiates.

Bolton said many addicts wind up in jail because they’re out of options.

“But the challenges that the Healing Place had is they’re full,” Bolton said. “The Healing Place turned away about 500 people last month.”

Wright said more community programs need to be created in order to help these people so they don’t wind up in jail.

“If you’re physically sick, and you can’t get to a facility to get help you’re going to do what you got to do to continue to keep using drugs," Wright said. "As a result of that, you’re going to end up in jail.”

In the last year, the jail started to administer Vivatrol to detox inmates. Wright explained Vivatrol is an alpha blocker, so it blocks a person’s obsession to use drugs and alcohol. Inmates will get a shot one week before getting out of jail, then they will be transferred to a partner program to continue treatment and therapy.

Wright said he still sees too many people not finish the program and wind up back in jail. But he does believe it is making a difference. He said he gets calls and letters from former detox inmates telling him the program has changed their lives.

Wright described one encounter with a former inmate at a restaurant.

“One time someone left a note and said you’re bill is paid. And I’m like, no, I didn’t pay the bill. And he said, ‘You paid the bill by helping me regain my life. I’m now in law school,’" Wright recalled.

"So those types of things make this job well worth it when you see those types of success.”

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