AUGUSTA -- The Criminogenic Addiction Recovery Academy (CARA) graduated 12 more women who have learned to break the cycle of addiction and reform criminal behavior through this five-week intensive program.
Based at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility (KCCF), CARA provides treatment to male and female inmates from areas throughout the state who have long-standing substance abuse issues with a high potential for recidivism, due to their co-occurring disorders and entrenched criminal thinking and lifestyle.
The program is the first of its kind in Maine, combining intensive counseling, group work and a unique therapeutic setting designed to reinforce pro-social values. CARA was launched in 2010 through the joint efforts of Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty and the jail administration at KCCF, Maine Board of Corrections, and Crisis & Counseling Centers (C&C).
"We know that...we have an addiction problem in central Maine," Sheriff Liberty said at the ceremony. "We know that it's important to educate our youth about the problem, and we know that it's important to have correct enforcement. But just as important is the programming to help people out."
CARA participants, District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and former CARA students joined the graduates' families and friends on Wednesday, April 16, to congratulate the 32nd CARA class.
"You have been given an opportunity to be able to start anew with family and friends, who are here and hoping this will be a new day," C&C Clinical Director Michael Mitchell told graduates. "We believe in you, and we want this to work because it is best for all of us that you succeed. It's best for our community, our children, our neighborhoods and our sense of family."
A portion of CARA's curriculum, written by Mitchell, addresses criminogenic thinking and behavior, based on best practices in the field and with the goal of addressing the emotional core of social behaviors. Other fundamentals of CARA include substance abuse treatment, parenting classes, meditation and yoga, the 12-step program, and ethical decision-making.
Six graduates presented at the commencement, expressing gratitude to CARA staff for helping to turn their lives around.
"Mr. [Bob] Kingman (C&C's director of Correctional Health & Jail Diversion Services)...really broke down our substance abuse from where we started to how we got here," CARA graduate Christine said. "Linking our substance abuse to criminal behaviors was very eye-opening and...helped us understand why we do the things we do."
Collectively, these 12 women have been in jail 92 times and in treatment facilities 75 times. With the help of CARA, all of them are counting on this incarceration being their last -- because they know the CARA program is different.
"This isn't a treatment center, and this isn't jail," Christine said. "CARA is like something none of us had experienced."
Allison, a 33-year-old mother of five who has been addicted to drugs for nearly 20 years, said, "This [program] was by far the best decision for me, my children and my recovery. I know my life won't be perfect and I'll still make mistakes, but I know I have the tools and motivation I need to be able to get through."
District Attorney Maloney, who recently met with the graduating class and was struck by how many of them were mothers, encouraged them to be positive role models for their children as they return home. As she put it, the idiom "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" does not have to be true.
Maloney spent most of her childhood living in a low-income housing project in Lewiston, and she said her own mother was determined to be a good parent, despite challenges. "There were times she was knocked down, and she couldn't give her kids the material things she wanted to give them. That was OK...because she gave us love and positive encouragement each and every day.
"All of you have been knocked down," Maloney continued. "This program is here to help you get back on your feet. And we're hopeful that you feel...you can be successful and that you can convince your children that they can do the same."
Through their completion of this rigorous program, CARA's latest graduating class has proven they are capable of overcoming the pasts that once defined them and continuing with recovery.
"We're leaving here knowing how to be better mothers, daughters, sisters and friends," Christine said. "But what's more important is that we're leaving here knowing how to be better to ourselves."
Crisis & Counseling Centers serves individuals with behavioral health needs, including substance abuse, mental health and co-occurring disorders. The nonprofit agency is the sole provider of crisis services for Kennebec and Somerset counties and administers 24-hour-a-day crisis services to those in need. The agency also offers G.E.A.R. Parent Network to empower caregivers of children with behavioral health needs statewide and Maine Mothers Network for pregnant and parenting women using substances.
For more information about C&C, call central access at 207.626.3448 or visit crisisandcounseling.org. If you are in crisis, call 1.888.568.1112 .