Horry County jail offers ‘intense’ treatment program for addicted inmates

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Horry County is the only in-house drug treatment program for inmates in South Carolina.

The program, titled Jail Diversion and Re-Entry Program, is typically for men with drug charges.

“It’s a pretty intense program,” said Chaplain of the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, Eddie Hill. “Probably about six to eight hours a day of treatment.”

Hill has been a part of the program since it began in 2009 and said it’s a therapeutic community program based off peer mentorship.

Men are placed into the program by the Solicitor’s Office or Public Defenders Office as part of a deal after they’ve been convicted.

“We’re trying to take men who have thought like criminals probably most of their lives and we’re trying to get them to change their way of thinking,” he added.

The program works in three phases: Beginning with in-house treatment at J. Reuben Long, a transition into a halfway house and then a transition back into society.

“If we can treat their criminal and addictive thinking, when they get out, they can be productive citizens,” said Hill.

Participants typically spend 12 months in the jail going through group and individual therapy as well as classes for moral reconation therapy and criminal and addictive thinking. In the halfway house, they learn life skills like how to get a job, clothes and an identification card.

“There’s also some other requirements,” added Hill. “We want to help them get an education so every year Horry County’s Adult Education Program comes in and teaches a program called “Work Keys” which helps them get a job when they get out.”

Gareth Beshears helped start the program and said it’s never the same.

“We’re always tweaking it,” he said. “You essentially have to change their belief system and that’s why it takes a long time and serious intensive intervention to do that.”

Beshears is a former addict himself and said a few men on his staff have actually graduated from the program.

“I have a passion about being able to take my wisdom and experience and help empower them to recover,” he added.  “We have to change the culture of addiction. It has its own culture and subculture and life of its own and in order to get them out of that culture, it’s a serious process.”

The Jail Diversion and Re-Entry Program has been so successful, the Horry County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the South Carolina Department of Corrections Youthful Offenders Program.

“There’s actually a waiting list to get the youthful offenders in here,” added Hill.

Seventeen young men, ages 17-25, can stay at J. Reuben Long at one time and participate in the program.

Each year, the program costs the Sheriff’s Office about $244,800 but is often covered by the South Carolina Department of Corrections, which pays for the youth offenders they send to the program, and local grants. Typically, 30 to 40 men complete the program every year.

Hill and Beshears talked about one man who was in and out of J. Reuben Long dozens of time over the years and finally became “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” He finally joined the program, graduated and has had a steady job for four years.

“Imagine what he cost the county not only for incarceration but the judges, the attorneys, someone paid for the public defender someone paid for the solicitor,” said Hill. “You think about all those costs involved in arresting someone and bringing them to jail 57 times over the course of 10 years. It adds up very, very quickly.”

The Sheriff’s Office said it has about a 70% success rate. A successful case is declared if the man does not return to jail for 36 months.

“It works if the person going into it wants it to,” said Program Services Coordinator, Steven Atwood. “I’ve seen several people graduate, get through it and move on to Phase II and are doing well. And I’ve seen a couple that just buck it from the start and are terminated and unfortunately for them they go to prison.”

Atwood said the men are in classes all morning and all afternoon.

“They’re constantly, Monday through Friday, doing something towards bettering themselves,” he added.

Online information is available about the program.