MACON COUNTY, Ill. (WAND) - It’s a one-of-a-kind program in central Illinois, and it’s getting its start in the Macon County Jail.
It’s called the RESTORE Program, and while inmates are serving their time, they’re also restoring their futures.
“I’ve walked in their shoes. I’ve sat here as a resident, so I understand what they go through day-to-day in here, and I understand what they go through day to day on the outside when they’re struggling with addiction," said Troy Pulliam, who helps oversee the Crossing Healthcare RESTORE Program at the Macon County Jail.
Since May, the program has helped more than a dozen inmates, like Eric Tucker.
“I’ve made some bad choices and, you know, with the RESTORE Program, it’s taught me how to make better choices,” shared Tucker. “It’s changed my way of thinking to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
The RESTORE Program is made possible by a generous donation from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. It's only been in place since May, and those overseeing it say it's modeled after a program in Virginia.
Inmates who fit the program’s qualifications get several weeks of educational and vocational courses. Partnered with the RESTORE Program is the Decatur Public Library’s Project Read Plus.
It’s sometimes known as the Community College Program, but organizers said the inmates are picking up much more than basic math skills.
“They need to be able to ask for help. They need to follow the rules. They need to be persistent, and not give up, and not get frustrated. All of those things that then are experiencing success in math, and success feels good,” explained Project Read Plus Director Julia Pangrac.
But Pulliam said these programs go even deeper. They focus on treating mental health issues, coping with and overcoming addiction, anger management, and more.
“Throwing guys in jail, and throwing guys in prison that have a substance abuse issue, that doesn’t solve the problem,” Pulliam said. “Yes, they have a debt to society to pay, but in order to keep them from coming back, we have to address why they’re coming here to begin with.”
Drey Church oversees RESTORE’s Substance Use Disorder services.
She said through the mentoring, mental health, and substance abuse treatment, the inmates get the tools they need to be successful after being released, which is a positive for Macon County as a whole.
“Recidivism is decreased. Criminality is decreased. (There is) increased education,” Church explained. “There’s increased productivity in the citizens of our community.”
As for inmates like Tucker, it’s a program restoring his faith in the justice system and confidence in himself.
“We want the same things, to be back with our families, and to be better than we were yesterday for our families,” Tucker shared.
Organizers said Crossing Healthcare’s RESTORE has similar programming both in and outside of the jail.
That allows inmates to continue their treatment after release, setting them up for further success.
RESTORE is also working to provide transitional housing to recently released inmates to help remove them from previous environments that prevented them from staying clean and immersed them in criminal activity.
Upon release, many of the inmates also get connected more with the Read Plus Program to obtain a GED, get enrolled in college or get help finding employment. Officials said when they can support themselves and their families, it’s easier to prevent themselves from falling back into old behaviors.