Jason Burns, mental health director with the substance abuse program, congratulates Lucky Bridges, honor graduate for Friday's ceremony. Bridges, who was incarcerated for 18 months on a DWI charge, will be released from prison today after completing his sentence and the 9-month intensive program.
Patricia Viola, mother of honor graduate Lucky Bridges, says she couldn't be happier for her son as completes the substance abuse program. "It's wonderful, and I'm very proud of him," she gloated.
Forty-three inmates at the Bossier Medium Security Facility in Plain Dealing donned blue caps and gowns Friday morning as they graduated from the Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Program.
"This feels fabulous to be recognized for something positive in my life," said Lucky Bridges, honor graduate for the class. Bridges started drinking as a teenager and has battled alcohol since that time, but at age 48, he sees a bright future now that he's successfully completed the program.
"When I went through the program, I had low self-esteem and no respect for others," said Bridges, who's been incarcerated for the past 18 months on a DWI charge. "The program has a lot to do with life, not to just stop drinking. It helped me to admit my wrongs and find a solution to my problems."
The nine-month program is an intensive 40-hour per week curriculum for the inmates, referred to as offenders, who have a history of substance abuse. Psychologists and mental health counselors with the Louisiana Department of Corrections and Public Safety facilitate the program, which moved from Forcht-Wade Correctional Center in Keithville to the Bossier Sheriff's Office jail facilities in Plain Dealing two months ago.
Dr. Susan Tucker is the assistant warden for the care and treatment of the program, which currently has about 400 offenders. She says the success of the program not only lies in the intense individual and group therapy, but also with the family recovery program.
"We give opportunities for the offenders and family members to discuss, in a safe environment of treatment with health care professionals, those issues that might otherwise be difficult to discuss once released," Tucker said. "The offenders and family members discuss multiple topics including addiction, communication, dreams, goals and expectation of the offenders upon release."
Nearly 1,300 offenders have graduated from the program since it began 2 years ago, and early numbers show that the positive evidence-based program aimed at reducing recidivism is working.
Eleven of today's graduates were released from prison following the ceremonies as they complete the sentences, while most of the remaining offenders will become part of the Work Release program with the Bossier Sheriff's Office where they'll participate in working at various job sites in the community.
"Your real challenge starts today when you go to Work Release or back to society," said Jerry Goodwin, warden of the David Wade Correctional Center. "You've got the opportunity to make good decisions in order not to come back to prison, but be a productive person," said Goodwin, a 30-year veteran with corrections.
For Patricia Viola, mother of graduate Lucky Bridges, today was something special. "It's wonderful, and I'm very proud of him." Bridges chimed in, "Better late than never."
For some offenders, this was the first time they were positively recognized in their life, and program leaders see the significance of recognizing the graduates, many who never even graduated high school.
"They complete the program, get to graduate, and family members get to see that they've accomplished something," said Jason Burns, mental health director with the program. "These are special moments in a person's life, and having a ceremony makes it real."
This was the first graduation for the program at the Bossier Sheriff's Office facilities since moving here on July 1. Graduations will be held monthly.