RAY BROOK - The Federal Correctional Institution here recently graduated 23 students from its Advanced Occupational Education Program in Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Studies.
The program qualifies its graduates for entry-level employment as alcohol and substance abuse counselors-in-training, according to a press release issued by officials at the prison.
"Our goal at FCI Ray Brook is to give each inmate something they can use to help them prepare for release into society," the release said. "The CASAC (Certified Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor) Program, as well as other programs offered at FCI Ray Brook, helps manage the inmate population in a positive way and gives them something meaningful to stay focused on during their incarceration."
Prison officials said the Federal Bureau of Prisons is committed to reducing recidivism by facilitating effective skill-based programs for inmates scheduled to be released from federal prisons.
"The CASAC Program is just one program we offer to our inmate population, to help reduce recidivism," officials said. "We do this with an inter-disciplinary approach that embraces effective inmate programming that incorporates community resources."
The program is administered by St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment & Recovery Centers in Saranac Lake, which has provided CASAC instruction at FCI for the past decade.
Each year, 25 inmates are selected for the program after a comprehensive application process. The nine-month curriculum provides training in such areas as understanding the physical, psychological and social effects of chemical dependency; creating treatment plans; and treatment modalities and levels of care. At the conclusion of extensive training, participating inmates will have earned 250 hours of CASAC education toward the mandatory 350 hours required to earn their CASAC-T (training) certification, which officials said is a "substantial accomplishment towards full qualification as a Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor."
Speaking at a ceremony held for the 23 graduates, St. Joseph's Associate Director of Inpatient Services Robin Gay said the inmates learned that addiction is a treatable disease.
"It is my hope that you have come to appreciate the immense importance of the role of compassion, empathy and sincerity in helping others to reach their potential and their life goals," she said. "This understanding will ultimately change your perception of yourself and of others in the world around you."
Prison officials said the St. Joseph CASAC program has been so successful "that inmates from throughout the Federal Bureau of Prisons have applied for a transfer to Ray Brook to participate in the program."