By Kristin Flores, MCAP, Lead Substance Abuse Counselor
When people think about counseling settings, they often imagine cozy spaces and a silent office. Imagine sitting in a counseling session while hearing slamming steel doors, jangling keys, arguing voices, and constant phones ringing. These are the sounds present at the Monroe County Detention Center (MCDC) in Key West, Florida where the Guidance/Care Center’s (G/CC) Jail In-House Program (JIP) facilitates group and individual therapy sessions. There is no privacy behind the large bulletproof windows that are free of curtains for all to see into while presenting constant distractions. The clients live surrounded by other inmates where simple discussions can often lead to verbal and physical altercations. Although the JIP clients can struggle in this challenging environment, they can also flourish once they are engaged in treatment.
The JIP is a six-month intensive outpatient program with most clients assigned by the 16th Judicial Circuit of Florida, Monroe County to complete it as part of their sentence. However, other inmates can volunteer for the program which will shorten their sentence and teach positive/alternative lifestyle choices as well as coping skills to avoid continued substance abuse and incarceration. Substance abuse treatment groups are held daily and supplemented with individual care.
Recently, Major Timothy Age, Commander for the Bureau of Corrections (BOC), approached JIP counselors, Kristin Flores and Kaylee Armstrong to complement their work and comment on the dramatic shift of two inmates who had a longstanding history of reoccurring arrests, fights and other violations of facility rules. Due to their behavioral improvements during their time with JIP, both clients were granted job opportunities within the facility that had been previously denied. Major Age went on to explain that he truly understood the importance of an in-house program after seeing the effects of treatment on the individuals involved in our program.
Despite the challenging environment, JIP counselors often express their love for working in this stressful environment. This year, the program has already served fifty-three men and fifteen women. When inmates complete their program, a graduation ceremony is held to help them celebrate this accomplishment.