Recovering addict talks connection between drugs and repeat arrests

NOW: Recovering addict talks connection between drugs and repeat arrests

KNOX, Ind. - On the heels of yet another repeat drug arrest in Starke County, one recovering addict is speaking out about her cycle through the system only to ABC 57 News.

Those who work with drug offenders on a daily basis say that if one is arrested once on drug charges, there’s a decent chance it will happen again.

“I was bad, bad, very bad. I didn’t want to change. Nobody was going to make me change,” said recovering addict, Tiffany Witham.

For six+ years, Tiffany Witham struggled to break free from her vicious cycle of addiction.

“Childhood was kind of difficult. Had a lot of emotional issues, you know with abuse and whatnot, and I think that’s kind of where it led me to drugs,” she said.

Popping a pill for a toothache turned into six stints in jail.

“In 2013 I was probably in jail more than I was out, honestly,” said Tiffany.

She says losing custody of her kids sent her over the edge.

“It was pretty traumatic, and that was the day I started shooting up…I didn’t really care. I didn’t’ have a reason to care. I lost everything,” she said.

Eventually, she ended up in Starke County Probation Officer Annette Warkentien’s office.

“She did not want to be held accountable for her actions whatsoever, which is a trademark, a characteristic that I see frequently,” said Warkentien.

The 12-year probation veteran says that’s specially the case when it comes to addicts, landing these offenders back in prison more often.

“When it comes to the substance-related offenses, that rate is higher. 46.9%, so 47% of the individuals convicted of a substance-related offense returned to prison within three years of their release,” said Starke County Community Corrections Supervisor, Jordan Morris.

According to the Indiana Department of Corrections’ report, in 2011, Starke County saw a 100% recidivism—or return—rate for those convicted of Possession of a Needle and Possession of Methamphetamine.

At that time, the two people convicted of possession of cocaine or a narcotic stayed out of jail, but Tiffany’s probation officer says the number has risen since then.

“I feel like once they get you once, they’re watching you, and it’s just a pattern,” said Tiffany.

Luckily, Tiffany was able to pull herself out of that pattern.

“When he said 30 months prison, everything just became so real, and it sunk in, what exactly I was doing and what was going to happen if I didn’t stop,” she said.

Three years later, a sober Tiffany gazes at the names on the crosses stuck in the ground at Wythogan Park, the names of those who succumbed to their addictions, the names that could have included hers.

“There is hope. That they can change their life. I am proof. I am stubborn, and I absolutely refused. I didn’t think I could do it. Nobody thought I could do it. There is hope,” said Tiffany.

Tiffany and her probation officer, Annette’s, stories are tied together with one of those crosses that includes the name of Annette’s nephew and Tiffany’s best friend, Justin Haluck.

He overdosed and died two years ago.

In regards to treatment, Annette says Starke County desperately needs programs focused on women, who are facing even more barriers for men.

She says she’s working on bringing a new one to the county and will update ABC 57 if that dream becomes a reality.

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