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Innovative partnership between Kenton Detention Center, Life Learning Center reduces recidivism

Kenton County Detention Center and Life Learning Center were recently featured in a broadcast by PBS NewsHour correspondent Stephanie Sy as part of their Searching for Justice Series.

The story focused on the innovative approach and collaborative partnership between the two organizations and their efforts to combat Substance Use Disorder and recidivism.

Re-entering society after experiencing incarceration is difficult. Without a plan in place for housing and employment, many individuals find themselves back in detention. The national recidivism rate, or a person’s likelihood to return to jail, is 83% which means 8 out of ten individuals who are released from incarceration will be reincarcerated. Without proper re-entry programs, the cycle of recidivism will continue.

In Kenton County, an innovative relationship between the Detention Center and Life Learning Center has directly reduced the recidivism rate in the Northern Kentucky region. It begins inside the jail. Individuals incarcerated at Kenton County Detention Center can apply to participate in the Jail Substance Abuse Program & Comprehensive Opioid Response with 12-step Integration or JSAP. Approximately 70% of the people incarcerated at KCDC were arrested for drug charges directly related to their Substance Use Disorder. To qualify for JSAP, individuals must be diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder and cannot be violent offenders or be on the sex offender registry. Once admitted into the program, members have access to a plethora of resources including counseling services, recovery support and, in some cases, medically assisted treatment. There are separate programs available for men and women.

Once individuals successfully complete JSAP at Kenton County Detention Center (KCDC), they are encouraged, and sometimes court ordered to continue their recovery journey at Life Learning Center (LLC). This Covington-based non-profit delivers a holistic integrated continuum of education and care facilitating transformational change, long term employment, and dignity for the “at risk” citizens of the region. Service is not limited to those who have experienced incarceration, but 95% of LLC Candidates in 2021 had a criminal background; 97% had a history of Substance Use Disorder.

Life Learning Center (LLC) was founded on the belief that every individual should have the opportunity to live up to their highest potential, regardless of where they are in their life journey. LLC delivers Foundations for a Better Life™ which is a 12-week program focusing on five domains of life: Physical, Financial, Spiritual, Emotional and Relational. In order to complete the program and be recognized as a graduate, Candidates must complete the 12-week education program, maintain drug-free status and obtain employment. Life Learning Center’s holistic approach directly impacts Candidate outcomes and has proven a successful model for nearly 3,000 Candidates since 2006.

For many Life Learning Center Candidates (clients), a former unwise decision, lifestyle choice, health emergency or mental health/Substance Use Disorder diagnosis has paralyzed their family. By connecting these marginalized adults with care, education, and employers who are amenable to transformational employment, LLC is giving them renewed hope and another chance at sustaining long-term success. Participation in the 12-week program creates a ripple effect. By providing access to financial support and safe sober living while individuals work to reestablish themselves, LLC supports the reconnecting of families, the reduction of Substance Use Disorder and recidivism. Additionally, individuals possessing multiple felony convictions are securing employment which reduces unemployment and promotes economic growth.

According to recent studies, adults in poverty are three times more likely to be arrested than those who are not. Statistics show that 1 in 3 Americans have a criminal history frequently related to mental health/ Substance Use Disorder which may be a barrier to employment. A study of the formerly incarcerated found that employment was the single most important factor in decreasing recidivism. KCDC and LLC recognize the correlations and used these insights when building their partnership.

As a result, in 2021, over 155 Life Learning Center Candidates were employed or enrolled into post-secondary education and over 800 individuals and family members from Northern Kentucky were served. Most importantly, in 2020, the recidivism rate of LLC graduates was reduced to 38%, while graduates also enrolled in JSAP through the Kenton County Detention Center experienced a recidivism rate of 28%. This stark contrast from the national average of 83% shows the importance of the KCDC and LLC partnership and its community impact.

Advocates for victims of Substance Use Disorder say that Kenton County is the Silicon Valley of recovery. Kenton County Detention Center and Life Learning Center accept this determination as a badge of honor.

View the PBS Newshour feature here.

Life Learning Center

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