LONOKE COUNTY, Ark. — The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) is using former inmates to help its neighbors get out of a life of crime, and it is becoming viral while doing so.
On TikTok, the Peers Achieving Collaborative Treatment (PACT) Program’s efforts have been watched by over half a million people.
The PACT Program’s method to fighting prison reentry at its heart is truly believing in yourself and what you can be given the proper support. It has kept everyone in the program invested since day one.
Michael Springer is familiar with one room in the Lonoke County jail.
“I’ve been to prison three times and twice fell out of this county,” Springer shared.
Springer shares the PACT Program office space with Crystal Holland. Both served time due to their addictions many times, most recently in 2018. Holland said it was her lowest point.
“I woke up in the hospital, and I was completely alone. There was nobody there with me, and I wanted to be that person when they were in their darkest moment mentally, emotionally, physically, and especially spiritually,” Holland stated.
The former inmates now make it their mission to help others, and their time is used to turn their past into their motivation. Holland and Springer are recovery specialists through the PACT Program. Above their desks are mugshots of their previous arrests.
Holland remarked on the picture of herself before the PACT Program.
“I don’t remember that person in that picture,” Holland admitted “She was tired and she was desperate. And I can look back at her and I can love her and tell her I’m sorry. And she can be proud of the person she is today.”
“This has got to the first job I’ve ever worked at where your mugshots can be on the wall as inspiration,” Springer added.
Through the PACT Program, repeat offenders at the Lonoke County jail get a chance to change their lives while serving time. Partway through, they transition into recovery from home while checking in once a month.
“PACT Program saved my life,” Mike Watts, a PACT Program participant, said.
“I was in 20 years of addiction, and it’s changed my whole life and my lifestyle,” Watts added. “I’m not motivated by substance. I have joy in my life.”
According to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, over the 17 months, 49 people have entered the program, and 33 have either graduated or are in the process. That’s a 67% recovery rate that the PACT Program is celebrating daily.
In June, Holland launched the program’s TikTok page. Their most watched video has 550,000 views. Holland said those in the program volunteer to share their testimonies online.
“If your testimony helps one person, it is worth it because a lot of addicts go through the same things. They just don’t know about how to get out of the hole,” Watts said. “And, you know, and when we recover, we got the way. We know how. And that’s why we recover out loud to let everybody know that it’s possible.”
“The longer that we stay silent people are dying in silence,” Springer urged. “We have to protect our sobriety at all costs, which means we can’t go into a trap house to deliver the message of recovery. But a phone can.”
The addiction recovery program has 13,000 followers online. LCSO was the first in Arkansas to offer the program through a federal grant, but now it is completely funded through donations and volunteers.