Substance abuse program at SWAR jail shows success


SEVIER COUNTY, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – The success of a substance abuse program inside the Sevier County jail is grabbing attention across the state.

“We started off with getting God back in jail,” said Sheriff Robert Gentry of the program, which he says has a 70% success rate so far.

The 90-day residential substance abuse treatment program was established at the Sevier County Jail in late 2017. The program offers reduced sentences to inmates that complete the program.

“They could’ve very easily sent me to prison,” said Keith White, who recently graduated from the program after using meth for years. “I’ve never really had anybody show me support.”

“I’ve been wanting help for a long time, you know. That’s all it would’ve took, to give me a chance, and I’m not gonna take it for granted,”

Matthew Van Horn is set to start the program next week.

“Instead of bashing inmates and telling us we’re never gonna make it, they’re telling us that we can, and they want to prove it to us,” he said.

Brandon Coulter is also on the list to start the next program. “Here, I can obtain the tools I need to change, and I’m gonna use those tools when I get out,” Coulter said.

Chris Wolcott, the jail’s administrator, said the program is a partnership with prosecutors, the local college and churches. Classes in anger management, parenting, and career classes are all offered. “Basically we’ve made our community part of our jail,” he said.  

Officials said the program also saves taxpayer money. It’s estimated it has saved the state $1.5 million because fewer inmates are being transferred to state prisons.

After completion of the program, participants graduate into nine months of after-care. “Three meetings a week, random drug tests and basically we make better citizens out of them,” Wolcott said. 

Since starting the program, Wolcott says other county jails around the state have asked Sevier County about it and the Arkansas House of Representatives recently honored the program with a resolution highlighting its success.

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