My name is Sean. I have battled with alcohol addiction for 16 years. Alcohol was at the root of all my transgressions and caused turmoil in my life. I have attended intensive outpatient treatment, court-ordered alcohol classes, weekly and bi-weekly therapy, the Salvation Army, and most fortuitously, Alcoholics Anonymous. I have also determined the best mental health medication and advice from doctors. The past included many painful relapses and hospitalizations. I once sat in Weld County Jail among violent career criminals and proud killers who told me that I will end up in prison or dead if I continue to drink. Life put me at the ultimate crossroad – incarceration, death or begin the road to recovery. Unfortunately, jail is no place for an addict to recover. Inmates are given space and time for sobriety but abstinence is forced and not oriented towards rehabilitation. Weld County Jail does not have adequate resources to allow for mental and physical recovery.
The jail has a voluntary program which provides counseling for inmates who suffer from substance abuse and also employs a psychiatrist. The wait time can take weeks or months to access these services. A small staff of counselors meets with clients on a weekly basis to prepare inmates for life in the community after release. Clients are given workbooks and must be self-motivated to complete tasks each week. Addicts who are not in jail very long may be unintentionally neglected and have no opportunity to begin a path to recovery, whereas long-term inmates only get weekly counseling and prescriptions. Behavioral therapy that benefits an addict becomes challenging because addicts must return back to a criminal population after counseling sessions. Therapy may be supplanted by prolonged exposure to criminal behavior.
Weld County Jail faces another challenge of providing inmates with proper nutrition. Food services are provided by an outside vendor and meals are planned by a registered dietician. The jail serves the same meals on a monthly basis which contain very few servings of fruits and vegetables. Correctional officers bring their own meals, despite being provided a tray at every meal. Given the choice, they would not eat the food made on-site. Identification worn by inmates depict a face that has undergone significant weight change since initial confinement, regardless of physical activity or the amount of food eaten. Nutrition is not an exact science however, it is well understood that diets which lack variety are unhealthy. Eating the same thing for an extended period of time is detrimental to physical health. This type of diet is not helpful for the addict who neglected their nutrition due to substance abuse. Physical recovery is hindered by poor nutrition. Both physical and mental recovery would benefit from a more balanced diet.
My alcohol abuse has given me an intimate look into a world rarely seen, hard to escape and easily forgotten by law-abiding citizens. Inmates may benefit from forced abstinence and regular meals but addicts remain untreated once they enter Weld County’s criminal justice system. There are real people with feelings, families, hopes, and dreams that are misunderstood and easily dismissed as criminals. We must give opportunities and provide public resources to those who want to help themselves. Weld County Jail is not the proper environment for an addict. I beg that you do not forget about other inmates who have similar plights and need help. Some are forever lost but most can be saved.