Over 50 percent of prisoners currently suffer from substance abuse addiction, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Another 20 percent either have histories of substance abuse, were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time they committed their crimes, or committed their offenses to get money to buy drugs.
Drug use is a predominant problem among the incarcerated population. Once in prison, only 11 percent of inmates with substance abuse and addiction disorders receive treatment. And when they do start receiving treatment it is a long, difficult road to becoming sober and drug-free.
Although it was not an easy journey to recovery for former Texas prisoner King David Haynes, he embraced his prison sentence and viewed it as an opportunity to strengthen his relationship with Christ as he leaned on Him to overcome his addiction. Haynes wrote a book entitled A Lame Man Healed that details his struggles with drug abuse, as well as his conversion to Christianity. In an effort to guide current prisoners away from a life of drugs, he has distributed his book to many Texas prisons. He has seen firsthand how difficult it is for many of these men and women to overcome addiction while incarcerated. He hopes to change these statistics with his book as well as his program Prodigal Sons Re-entry Ministry, which provides addiction recovery resources to former inmates.
By taking into account personal responsibility, trying to do a good job everywhere he goes, and living as a spiritual man, Haynes has turned his life around and steered clear of drugs’ grip. In his book he writes, “[In prison] I was put squarely in the path of my Savoir, my Lord. I learned from Him much more than if I was a free man.”
Rebuilding Lives Through Christ
In an effort to assist recovering inmates like Haynes , Prison Fellowship has partnered with Saddleback Church in California to offer a class called Celebrate Recovery. Saddleback Church started this program in 1999 with the goal of facilitating fellowship and celebrating God’s healing power. In 2005, Prison Fellowship incorporated the course into its programming and put its own spin on the curriculum. Celebrate Recovery frequently facilitated by Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers behind bars, is a 12-step recovery class that deals with “hurts, habits, and hang-ups,” and focuses on instilling a positive frame of mind within the participants. Although prisoners do not need to have a drug problem to enroll, many participants come in with a history of substance abuse. Celebrate Recovery is a nonjudgmental space that allows inmates to deal with the emotional and spiritual roots of their addictions, and to begin to overcome them through dependence on God and the support and accountability of a community.
Joe Avila, Prison Fellowship’s regional executive director for Northern California, Nevada, and Hawaii, said, “We promote Celebrate Recovery in all prisons because those who attend inside have a natural bridge to Celebrate Recovery [programs facilitated by churches on the] outside. When a prisoner is released from prison you can bet there is a Celebrate Recovery in the community they are paroled to taking place the very day of their parole and there are several brothers and sisters who have traveled the same road as they have.”
Ultimately, recovery is a choice and the addict’s heart and mind must be in the right place to fully reap its benefits. Haynes advises inmates, “You can choose to walk away from that world and that life, choose to walk into the outstretched arms of Jesus, just as I did.”