Beyond the Badge: Meet the men getting a second chance through Kosciusko County’s JCAP program
With the help of the community, a group of men are learning everything from how to build a resume to fighting addiction.
“I've had a struggle with drug addiction for let's say 20 years,” Kosciusko County Jail Inmate Bruce Yeazel said. “It's just a life that I'm completely done with.”
“Being a part of this program, to me, means that I'm actually able to build a connection with the outside world,” Kosciusko County Jail Inmate Kevin Stuckman said. “Before I came to this program, the only connection that I had with the world was drug based. Coming in here, I found out that the community doesn't just want to help me but they want to give me a support system from when I leave here.”
“Addiction touches so many people's lives,” Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office JCAP Coordinator Courtney Jenkins said. “It's not decided by class or income or race, it touches everyone.”
“It's a drug rehab program located inside our jail,” Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle Dukes said. “And during those four months we concentrate on mental health, life skills, addiction classes and religion.”
“This program is built around hope, and how to take your past struggles and transform it into hope,” Yeazel said.
“Just because someone has made bad choices in their life, it doesn't mean they can't overcome it,” Jenkins explained. “Many of us have made bad choices in our lives that may not have ended us up in jail, but they were not things that we're proud of.”
The men and women in JCAP spend six to eight hours a day in classes. 50% of their schedule is recovery classes, while the other 50% if life skills classes, like parenting class.
“I look forward to coming to classes because I do not only better myself, but I learn how to better the people around me,” Kosciusko County Jail Inmate Kevin Stuckman said. “I look forward to being able to go out there and be the parent I wish I had growing up.”
“I have four little girls,” Kosciusko County Jail Inmate Ben Stogsdill said. “They’re my everything and the more time I'm getting sober under my belt, the more I'm learning about them, and the more I'm learning how much of an impact I can make on their lives. And it's just… you don't realize what you have until you don't have it. And you know, until it's too late and just this opportunity to better myself, to teach them to become a better me for them, is a blessing.”
County jails in the state of Indiana are dealing with a problem they haven’t before. With a jail population of about 234 people, between 80-83% of inmates are in on drug-related charges and Sheriff Dukes said that’s no different than any other jail.
“We had two overdoses two weeks ago here at the county jail and everybody was like, hey, sheriff what is going on? How could there be an overdose in a county jail?”
People go through body scanners during booking and it’s a tool they use daily at the jail.
“It's this constant proactive stance that we take to try to limit drugs from coming into the jail, but when 83% of people are in here for drug related issues, they try every day to get drugs into the jail,” Sheriff Dukes said.
Sheriff Dukes said they’re dealing with pure fentanyl in the county, along with heroin and meth, and it’s causing overdoses.
“I never thought in my law enforcement career that I would ever see where meth is cheaper than marijuana,” Sheriff Dukes said. “It is absolutely killing our families and it's not just the addicted person. It's the moms and the dads and the sons and the daughters and the grandparents that are all affected by this.”
But through JCAP, people are staying clean.
“We have a 59% success rate that the addicted person gets out of incarceration and stays clean in our communities,” Sheriff Dukes said. “We have 30 organizations and businesses that come in every week, every week inside our jail and teach mentor train.”
“It's honestly… it's shocking. I didn't know that people in the community actually pulled together like this,” Stuckman said. “But coming in here, you actually learn that wow, there's someone out there who wants me to do good…It's just shocking and it means the world.”
“We are breaking down generational walls,” Sheriff Dukes said. “We’re giving them the confidence. We're giving them the training. And I've said this once and I'll say it again. Deputy Sheriffs, jail officers, we fall back on our training. That's how we survive in this world. So, if we're going to train our deputy sheriffs and they're falling back and our jail officers on their training, why are we not doing that to the to the addicted person who is wanting help.”
“I feel like it gives us drive and hope to achieve our future goals,” Yeazel said. “It helps us make goals that are actually achievable. And to be surrounded by these guys… it's a brotherhood that I never had before.”
“I became a better person in general,” Stogsdill said. “I've learned a lot of tools and ethics and morals that I didn't know I had and built a lot of confidence back in myself.”
Jenkins said it means a lot to her as the JCAP coordinator to see the men and women go through the program and go back out into the community, getting jobs and returning to their families.
“It is incredibly rewarding,” Jenkins said. “And for me, it gives me a great deal of hope. My son is a heroin and meth addict. And so, I want him to recover. I want to see him living the life that I see our graduates living. When I get those text messages that say, I just want you to know that I celebrated Christmas for the first time with my family in five years and it was so good...just being able to witness those little milestones for them, that are actually huge. That's what it means for me.”
“I can only get out and become this better person that I keep talking about,” Stogsdill said. “I can only become a better father. I can only just show them how grateful they are to me, how much they mean to me.”
“I can finally say that I'm going to make my mom proud,” Yeazel said. “My mom's put her whole heart in me and I feel like I failed her a lot. So, I feel like at the end of this program and my journey of work release, I will make my mom proud.”
"I want to be a counselor,” Stuckman said. I feel like all the support and help that I've gotten here to better myself… I just feel it wouldn't be right if I wasn't able to go out there and do something for my community. There's not much I can say, all I can do is show, and when I get out of here, I'm gonna make the world a better place.”
The group of seven will graduate from JCAP in two weeks. Towards the end of the program, businesses from the community come in and do interviews, preparing them for a job and life outside the bars.