Substance Abuse Program

The Roanoke City Jail is one of the few facilities in this part of the country to provide medical services accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Services and American Correctional Association. The jail's medical section is ultimately responsible for inmate health care within the facility. Correctional Medical Services has procedures in place to deal with those individuals with needs for detoxification, drug withdrawal or other medical services relating to substance abuse.

Inmate Requests
At several points during incarceration, the inmate has an opportunity to indicate the need for substance abuse services: at intake during incarceration, during the classification interview prior to being assigned to the main housing area of the jail, during the medical health assessment and at any point as the result of an inmate request. All inmate requests and medical referrals for substance abuse services are received by the jail's rehabilitation counselor who screens each request to determine the appropriateness for placement in available programs.

Therapeutic Housing
To enhance the jail's substance abuse services, there are 2 therapeutic housing areas operated within the jail (1 male and 1 female). The therapeutic living area provides a 120-day program of intensive treatment during incarceration under the supervision of trained mental health professionals. For most of the unit's participants, it is their first treatment experience after a long history of addiction. The Therapeutic Housing Areas were initiated under the guidance of Sheriff Alvin Hudson with the assistance of Blue Ridge Community Services (now Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare). The unit was named "Alpha" by the first 12 inmates who began the treatment program. The therapeutic operation of the unit is provided by qualified counselors from Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare and other community volunteers, without cost or obligation to taxpayers.

The therapeutic housing area's objectives, in addition to providing a means to break the drug and alcohol addiction cycle, include:
  • Linking released inmates with outside drug and alcohol programs
  • Identifying the needs of inmates committed to state facilities for further drug and alcohol addiction programming
  • Providing inmates with "survival skills" to help them keep a drug-free life when released
Program Approach
The therapeutic community uses an Alcoholics Anonymous approach, combined with writing of autobiographies, to help inmates identify how their lives became involved with drug and alcohol; group sessions with peers and mental health professionals aimed at exploring the threats to a drug free life; and professional counseling. Each therapeutic community consists of 12 participants. The female program is unique - it has 3 levels of evolution to accommodate inmates participating in weekly programs and also sharing living space. This approach was taken out of a need for space.