NBC4: ‘Only forward from here’: Fairfax County inmates find second chance in addiction recovery program

NBC4, MAURICIO CASILLAS

Inside the jail walls of the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, a group of inmates in a recovery program are connected by an all-too-familiar struggle – addiction.

“From early childhood, I’ve been addicted to substances and alcohol, and… I always try to tackle it on my own and it’s been landing me in and out of jail,” Donald Jenkins Jr. an inmate enrolled in the program said.

A group of congressional lawmakers toured the detention center Tuesday to learn more about the Striving to Achieve Recover Program (STAR) that’s changing inmates’ lives.

“The sort of recovery work that’s occurring here, lowering rates of recidivism and helping people get the help they need, it’s an extraordinary example,” Rep. (D-VA) Abigail Spanberger said.

The program is voluntary, and inmates apply to be accepted. Once in, participants take part in three 18-week phases. They attend discussions, engage in lessons led by their peers, address their trauma behind addiction and build a foundation they can lean on when they’re released from prison.

The inmates know they can’t take back the decisions that ultimately landed them in jail, but believe recovery gives them a second chance.

“Everything that I’ve been through. Everything that led me to the point that I’m at right now, is going to help me realize that I can’t go back. It’s only forward. It’s only forward from here,” inmate Donovan Rice said.

The STAR program participants at the Fairfax County jail hope that by sharing their stories, new programs like this one will pop up nationwide and help others.

Since the program started in 2018, there have been 71 graduates.

“It taught me, I ain’t gotta live like that no more. It’s a challenge for the rest of my life. But if I can do this, anybody can,” Jenkins said.

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