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From incarceration to recovery | Cocke Co. inmates graduate from substance abuse program

The second group of ten inmates recently graduated from a substance abuse program in Cocke County.

NEWPORT, Tenn. — The second group of 10 Cocke County Jail inmates graduated from a substance abuse program Friday. The Tennessee Jail Chemical Addiction Program is also known as TNJCAP or JCAP. 

It is evidence-based and studies claimed that similar programs worked in other places. Cocke County Jail is the first in Tennessee to start using it. The program helps inmates at risk of abusing various substances form healthy habits both inside and out of jail.

Over the course of around 9 months, inmates learn how to transition back into society and live a sustainable life.

Thomas Edwards already completed the first step of the program while in jail. Now he's transitioning back into society outside of prison.

"God's really, He's turned it around and He's put me back together," Edwards said. 

For the past 5 years, Thomas Edwards has been in and out of jail for drug-related charges. 

"I made a few poor choices," he said. "Before jail, I was just so oblivious and I never opened my eyes until now."

10News talked to him when he graduated from the first step of TN-JCAP in August. He was looking forward to a shot at his second chance. 

Now, on February 18, he sat on the stage at Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church and spoke at a graduation event as a free man ready to guide his JCAP brothers into the next step. 

He said that he's sober, with a full-time job and a girlfriend he loves.

"It's teaching me so many life skills I never thought I was capable of," Edwards said. 

He was deemed a house leader of their sober living home, which is the next step for the people who graduated today.   

Ewards welcomed the next group of graduates Friday. For the past 3 months, this group has taken a deep dive into learning how to live sober lives. Together they learn how to fight addiction, manage anger, make sustainable decisions and tips for developing healthy relationships with the people around them. 

We talked to Joseph Barret the day before he made his transition into a new home, out of his jail cell and into the sober living home where Edwards currently resides. He was nervous and excited at the same time, telling 10News "a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there."

He and the now-19 others in the sober living home are already working on the beginning of the rest of their free and drug-free lives.

"My JCAP brothers like Thomas they were my friends before. We were high buddies. Seeing them, and how far they've progressed, lets me know that I can do it too," Barrett said. 

Organizers of the program said TN-JCAP brings attention to those who are often forgotten in the jail system — those who struggle with addiction. The goal of the program is to make sure graduates never return to the jail unless it’s to visit.

Fresh out of jail, Joseph Barret now has a full-time job too. He said he packages toothpaste and toothbrushes and said it is his first legal way of making money he says in seven years. It's hard work, he said, but worth it. 

"I'm glad for it, I needed this," Barrett said. 

He said he's been in and out of the system since high school. This time though, with the help of JCAP, he wants to make a change in his life. 

"I want to make my momma proud, he said. 

His mother died in June while he was behind bars. He said that was a particularly hard time for him to go through while incarcerated.

"I know she's up in heaven watching me and she's proud. I guarantee it," Barrett said. 

To learn more about TN-JCAP, click here. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, help is available. You can call the Tennessee Redline any day of the week at any time at 800-889-9789. 

You can also find resources on our website under the section OD Epidemic.