SOAR - Alternative to Incarceration
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Show 1712: SOAR - Alternative to Incarceration
Air Date: March 19, 2017
Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Well, Oklahoma imprisons a larger percentage of its population than 47 of the 50 states. Now, does that mean Oklahomans are less law-abiding? Not at all. What we are seeing in the Sooner State are the results of years of get tough on crime policies that, while certainly well-intentioned, has Oklahoma’s prison system one of the three fastest growing in the country. Today, we begin with a look at how addiction recovery programs may be an answer to reducing our prison population. Austin Moore takes us to Ada, Oklahoma, to visit a program called SOAR, which is short for Southern Oklahoma Addiction Recovery.
Austin Moore: The days are full for Glen Mosley.
Glen Mosley, SOAR Client: We have been mowing some yards today. Tomorrow we will do the church. Next week, next Wednesday, I guess, we will pick up food for the needy, and Thursday we will pass it out.
Austin: Glen is a resident of the Southern Oklahoma Addiction Recovery house in Ada, Oklahoma, where they firmly believe that idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
Mosley: It actually feels good to be living sober again.
Doug Davis: SOAR is a therapeutic work program for non-violent offenders -- court-ordered offenders -- to integrate back into society.
Austin: Doug Davis is the executive director of SOAR. He uses steady employment, nightly group meetings and community service to keep these hands busy.
Davis: That is a major part of it, to stay busy, to where you are not sitting around wondering, that your mind is wandering. I mean, a lot of that went on when you was in your addiction on the streets and, you know, most generally when or where you are going to get high at next or where you are going to go get your drink at next and how are you going to get the money to do it. Where we put them here, they don’t have to worry about all that. They can focus on getting recovery and getting some sobriety days under them and knowing that they are going to go to work, that we have a job provided for them, and we will transport them to and from the job, that they are going to have food to eat, and they are going to have good meals to eat, and there is going to be meetings in the evening time where they can talk and express their feelings to others that are in the same situation as them.
Bill Murray: I’ve been to prison a couple of times and I just, I don’t want to go back.
Austin: Resident Bill Murray is rediscovering himself in the SOAR kitchen.
Bill: I’ve always been an early bird. So, uh, I started getting up at 4:30 every morning, going in and helping the cook. And before I know it, I’m up at 4:30 every morning doing the cooking. So I’m loving it, man. I’m loving it.
Bill: It is putting structure back in my life, you know, getting up on a daily basis. Doing, you know, what I need to do. I got a 12-step program and going to church regularly. And that is good, positive, you know, surrounding myself with positive people.
Mosley: Yeah, we are all like brothers. It’s a brother, brotherhood deal. Try to treat them like brothers. Earn the respect of others. And try to give respect.
Davis: One thing these guys have in common is that they have an addiction that they are fighting, whether it be alcohol or drugs or pills, whatever it may be. And everybody can relate to that, that’s in this program. So we have an open communication as far as things going on, and we see guys struggling. We’ve got guys in place in the house that are senior clients that have been, you know, around the program, fixing to graduate the program, that has done well, that will mentor and help the guys along the way that are struggling and trying to get it picked up.
Austin: Of course that support system is only one component of the program. SOAR is, after all, a therapeutic work program.
Davis: If they are here it is because they haven’t been doing normal things in life such as getting up and going to a job, providing for their family themselves, taking care of the utilities, whatever it may be.
Austin: So that is what SOAR gives these men: a job and a pattern reflecting a normal, successful life. Duane Murray, president of the SOAR board of directors, says that pattern changes these participants.
Duane Murray: You do that over a six-month period, and you see men’s attitudes changing. And it is not so much about talking, it is about doing. I am physically doing something every day, going to a job. And so their self-images start to turn around.
Austin: Stephen Ballard serves as CFO for LeachCo, an Ada-based manufacturer and major supporter of the SOAR program.
Stephen Ballard: They have had a rough go of it, made some bad decisions. They come here, maybe be encouraged, maybe learn some better habits and think, “Hey, here is at least an environment, if I stay here and work, you know, I can succeed.”
Austin: Ballard says this relationship is beneficial for both participants and his company as well.
Ballard: They have a reason to be here. They have a reason to succeed and do well. And, you know, they are trying to get their life straight. They are trying to get back in, you know, society where they are working hard, they are earning money, they’re you know putting in their time. And we have always had a really good relationship with the guys that run the house, and we have had good success with the quality of the workers. It is a great way for us to try out employees. And if they are here for the long haul like a handful of these guys have been, wind up staying in Ada and like LeachCo a lot, then we are able to provide them with a full-time steady employment.
Davis: We run currently 25 guys here. And we could run 40 or 45 if, you know, as far as employers go because there is that big of a need for it. And we turn, you know, we have to turn employers down a lot, because we don’t have the guys to work them. The word has spread.
Duane: I am so proud of Ada. It is unique to see this many people -- criminal justice system, counseling services, churches, employers and just individuals -- all pulling together to work toward a common goal to solve a problem.
Mosley: I feel like I’m headed back to life now. Back to the real life, instead of jails or institutions or maybe even death.
Austin: Did the program help you find something in yourself that maybe you hadn’t seen in a long time?
Mosley: Yes. Yeah, yeah, the real me, instead of the monster.
Austin: And that has been a struggle?
Mosley: Yes, sir. It was. But, I don’t know. It seemed like it was a lot easier once I got here, I know that.
Rob: Now, while the SOAR program has so far been focused on men, the group will open its first clean-living house for women in 2016. Now, when we return, the state director of the Right On Crime project joins us to look at justice reform from a conservative perspective.