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Sheriff Spotlight: Plymouth's Pathways to Recovery Program

In March 2019, Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office began “Pathways to Recovery,” a treatment program, designed to support pre-trial individuals with substance use issues. The open-enrollment initiative held within a dedicated unit, operates on a voluntary basis, allowing participants the flexibility to withdraw at their discretion, fostering a sense of autonomy in their recovery journey.

“Historically, this is time that was viewed as very difficult to provide program services because we had no idea when these individuals were going to leave,” Plymouth Sheriff Joseph McDonald said. “We have cut through all of that and found a way to provide services to this group.”

A staff member meets with participants to tailor the program to the individual's specific needs.

The program encompasses a comprehensive curriculum, featuring specialized groups such as Men’s Recovery, AA/NA and 12-step, relapse prevention, recovery art, family dynamics and parenting, opioid overdose prevention, meditation, path of freedom, coping skills, and mindfulness. Additionally, participants have access to various community resources.

To date more than 450 individuals have participated in the recovery-based program. The success of this initiative can be attributed to the unwavering dedication of the program staff. These committed individuals work tirelessly to ensure that participants receive the support they need, fostering an environment of genuine care and encouragement within the dedicated unit.

The dedicated staff is made up of a diverse group of professionals, including counselors, therapists, educators, and facilitators, each bringing their unique expertise to the program. They invest countless hours in crafting and implementing the comprehensive curriculum, tailoring it to address the specific needs of pre-trial individuals struggling with various substance use issues.

Laurel McLean, the program manager in the Substance Use Treatment Unit at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility, underscores the uniqueness of the program and the transformative impact it has on participants' perspectives. Beyond their roles as instructors, the staff members serve as mentors, guiding individuals on their journey of recovery and personal growth.

“It’s reentry, it’s recovery, it’s education all put together to give the guys, just the best opportunity, again giving them those resources and again attaching them with the community so that they have places to go when they step out,” McLean said.

Program staff work collaboratively with community partners.

Collaborating with facilitators and recovery coaches from the community, the program facilitates a seamless transition from incarceration to release. This approach ensures that individuals leaving the facility not only complete the program, but also have ongoing support in the community to sustain their recovery. This commitment plays a crucial role in breaking the cycle of recidivism and providing a foundation for lasting change.

Referrals for the program come from various sources, including PCCF staff, classification officers, caseworkers, and self-referrals. Notably, Brockton, Hingham, and Wareham recovery courts make referrals through court documents, with a designated PCCF Re-Entry Specialist serving as a liaison to these recovery courts, fostering effective communication regarding the needs and progress of program participants.

“It allows us to provide rehabilitation services, and for the time they spend with us not to be wasted, but rather productive, Sheriff McDonald said. “It allows inmates to engage programs, helping them deal with the issues that actually put them in the correctional facility in the first place.”

One individual who participated in the program in 2023, now serves in the unit as a mentor, recognizing the significant impact it had on his own journey.

“This program has given me the opportunity to rebuild my life in an environment that would normally help me self-destruct,” he said.

Taking ownership of their progress, program participants are responsible for tracking their achievements. Upon completing each group, they earn signatures from facilitators and use a progress sheet to showcase their accomplishments. This sheet serves as a tangible record that can be shared with the courts, probation, parole, and attorneys, offering a transparent demonstration of their efforts.

“I am very grateful to our dedicated program staff and proud to say that our program has been recognized by the state and federal judiciaries,” Sheriff McDonald said.

This comprehensive program embodies the real impact of compassion and rehabilitation in corrections, paving the way for brighter futures for everyone involved.

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