Several years ago, San Quentin inmate Don Kronk realized that addiction was just a symptom of the real problems he and his fellow inmates needed to solve, and 12-step group meetings were not doing the job that a more comprehensive treatment program might accomplish. This June, after two years and thousands of hours of study and training, nine inmates were certified as Alcohol and Drug Counselor Associates, ready to become peer counselors in San Quentin’s new, expanded drug rehab services.
“At one point in my incarceration,” Kronk told NPR’s Inside Edition, “I realized that addiction is just one part of the problem. It’s just the symptom — the actual outward appearance of what’s going on inside — and I realized there’s a lot more to this, and just an AA group wasn’t going deep enough.”
A half-dozen inmates got together and started looking for a drug rehab program that could do more than what was offered at San Quentin, something that would help get to the bottom of inmates’ addiction problems and help them reintegrate with society. The group struck pay-dirt when they found the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CADAAC), which certifies alcohol and drug rehab counselors in the state California rehab center. CAADAC agreed to help put together a solution by training inmates as counselors.
Working through Full Circle Addiction Recovery Services, a non-profit based in Berkeley, CA, professionals from the alcohol and drug addiction treatment field volunteered to form Addiction Counselors Training (ACT) in 2005 to train inmate counselors at San Quentin how to deliver a comprehensive alcohol and drug rehab recovery and reentry program for their fellow San Quentin inmates. The new inmate counselors were required to complete seven academic courses, a 6-month practicum, and a 4000-hour internship. CAADAC waived hundreds of dollars in credential fees for this pilot program.
The program being delivered to inmates, called Addiction Recovery Counseling (ARC), is a 16-week program of peer counseling, case management, and education in a wide range of topics to help inmates while they’re in prison and after they get out. Although the costs to the prison are relatively low because inmates are delivering many of the services, space and budget problems mean only 50 inmates can enter the current program. But by mid-2008, that’s supposed to change. The prison has asked Full Circle to be ready to deliver alcohol and drug rehab to 1,000 inmates who want to “change their lives and become healthy, productive family and community members.” All prisoners who have drug and or alcohol addiction on their record – estimated to be 80 percent to 90 percent of the prison’s population – will be mandated to receive drug rehab through the new programs.
San Quentin’s outstanding new program may be the first non-12-step model drug rehab program in the country being delivered inside a prison by specially trained and accredited inmates. If it is successful – and there is no indication that it shouldn’t be – it can and should serve as a model for state and even federal prisons across the country, where hundreds of thousands of prisoners are in great need of a successful drug rehab program.