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Recently, KRRJ inmate Joshua Ritchie (right) received an award for being in the WAR cell outreach for a year. Marcus Lindon (left), peer support representative of the Recovery Cell Outreach is pictured with Ritchie.

This month, an inmate of the Kentucky River Regional Jail received an award for completing one year in the jail’s recovery cells, or We Are Recovery (WAR) outreach program. The award, said KRRJ, is named after the late Dexter Howard, KRRJ’s former jailer who passed away last year.

The outreach, said jail officials, was implemented last fall through a partnership with the Primary Care Centers of Eastern Kentucky. The Recovery Cells consist of two cells, one for females and one for males, and are dedicated to housing inmates who are interested in seeking help with recovering from substance abuse. The outreach, said KRRJ Administrator Lonnie Brewer, offers the inmates a chance to experience and learn about treatment centers before ever going to one.

Through the Recovery Cells, inmates are given a foundation to want to go to long-term treatment. Outreach coordinators teach the Moore curriculum, which focuses on accountability and looking at different perspectives on the world. During the outreach, the inmates complete book studies, art classes, homework assignments and participate in Zoom meetings. Recently, Joshua Ritchie, an inmate at KRRJ, completed a consecutive year in the Recovery Cells, becoming the first inmate to do so.

Gracie Nantz, the outreach supervisor, said Ritchie has been the only inmate to complete a full year in the outreach with no disruptions.

“He’s the only one that’s been in there a whole year,” said Nantz.

The program, said Ritchie, had its challenges, but has helped him in many ways. “It’s been pretty good,” said Ritchie, explaining that the morning meditation sessions and other activities have helped him.

“I’ve come to realize I’m not alone and I have support and resources through Primary Care,” said Ritchie.

One of the challenges, he said, was that inmates new to the outreach could sometimes affect the atmosphere. Over time, once those inmates learned more about the outreach, it became easier, said

representatives of the outreach.

“Joshua realizes now that the newcomers are one of the most important people in the cell,” said Marcus Lindon, a peer support representative of the outreach and a former KRRJ deputy. The new inmates, said Lindon, will often be shy or not know what to expect of the program, so the other members who have been in it will have to teach them and mentor them in a way, he said.

Brewer said he is proud of Ritchie, the inmates and of the outreach.

“For an inmate to be in a cell for a year is an accomplishment, but to be in a recovery cell where you’re working on yourself every day that’s just an amazing feat,” said Brewer. “I’m very proud of the program itself. It’s been a really successful program. Even through the pandemic we’ve still made it work and I’m extremely proud of it.”

The inmates, said Brewer, are the reason the award was named after Dexter Howard, which he feels speaks volumes.

“The inmates were the ones who suggested it,” said Brewer. “They asked me about it and I think it’s very fitting because Dexter really cared about the inmates and cared about their success. I think it’s a tremendous honor especially coming from the inmates that they wanted to have an award in his name.”

The Recovery Cells, said Brewer, are hopefully going to continue to allow inmates here in Hazard with substance abuse problems to go to their local jail instead of other counties for help. KRRJ, said Brewer, is the only jail in the state doing this outreach. Other jails offer Substance Abuse Programs (SAP), but KRRJ doesn’t, so the Recovery Cells were a great addition, Brewer said.

“We’re hoping that it continues to grow and that we can help more people within the program. I think it’s been a valuable asset to folks who reappear and go to rehab,” said Brewer. “We’re just really proud of what we’ve been able to do within that program.”