Focus on Community: Town hall meeting

foucs town hall meeting2
Students and community members listen to speakers. Courtesy of Dave Wooten


Substance abuse prevention non-profit host event with speakers from Ellsworth correctional facility

Wednesday Oct. 3, four women prisoners from Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Union Grove spoke to students, faculty and members of the community about their journeys with drug addiction. This event was put on by a substance abuse prevention non-profit organization, Focus on Community, who work out of Racine.

Importance of prevention

Jason Meekma, executive director of Focus on Community, introduced the inmates and sergeant from Ellsworth and spoke about the organization’s mission and goals for helping the community. Meekma described why prevention is critical for avoiding substance abuse in our communities saying that “if we can prevent something from ever being a problem we never have to deal with it.”  

Additionally, Meekma and Focus handed out drug deactivation kits after the event, noting that one of the issues with prevention is the improper disposal of prescription drugs. The kits are able deactivate up to 45 pills at a time, preventing unused prescriptions from falling into the wrong hands.


Stories from inmates

The four speakers from Ellsworth are all part of the Early Release program (ERP), which attempts to rehabilitate inmates and help them prepare for life after being released from prison. Each of the four women spoke about their personal life history and how that played a role in their addictions and, eventually, their incarceration.  

Kelly, 29, spoke of her time as a high schooler, referencing being a violinist, being on honor roll, and her plans to attend college. Kelly also spoke about her past with abuse in her family, speaking of her father: “He was a completely different person sober, I’ve learned that everyone is.” History of abusive relationships and the process of recovery from alcohol and marijuana as well as harder drugs like opiates and heroin, are all patterns shared by these four women.

Speaking to high school and college students about their addictions is a voluntary program for inmates in the ERP. The chance to share their stories is something each of the women felt passionate about, especially getting a chance to prevent others from going down the same path they were once on.

Finishing the program

The Focus on Community collaboration with the ERP aligns with the organization’s mission of preventing substance before it becomes a problem in our society. ERP and Focus resemble each other through the programs they offer, including life skill training, relationship training and counseling. Focus on Community hopes to instill the tools and skills necessary to be successful and avoid substance abuse throughout life, much like the ERP works to rehabilitate and prepare inmates to function within society.


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