Submitted by Lt. Bill Davis, Bossier Sheriff’s Office

Forty-three men incarcerated at the Bossier Parish Correctional Facility in Plain Dealing graduated this morning from the 29th class of the Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Program (SHISAP), a substance abuse rehabilitation program that was recently recognized for its efforts to treat and support offenders and their families.

SHISAP and the Family Recovery Program received a prestigious award from the Ash Center for Democratic Government and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University as part of the 2015 Bright Ideas program.

The program is hosted by the Bossier Sheriff’s Office and facilitated by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.  The Family Recovery Program has three main components:  family day, life lessons for families and reading to our children.

“Studies show that regular contact during a parent’s incarceration helps family reunification upon release,” according to Dr. Susan Tucker, licensed Clinical Psychologist and Program Director. “The stronger and more current the incarcerated parent’s relationship with his or her children, the smoother the parent’s reintegration into the family will be.”

DPS&C Secretary James M. Le Blanc says Dr. Tucker and her staff have done an amazing job developing the substance abuse treatment program over the last few years, which has been at the Bossier corrections facilities for 2 ½ years.

“What many people don’t realize about incarceration is how many people it actually affects,” explained Secretary Le Blanc. “There are 38,000 DOC offenders incarcerated across Louisiana. Up to 80% of these individuals are incarcerated because of drugs – either through using, selling or criminal activity related to using or selling. Think of how many family members that affects – mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sisters, etc.  Establishing and growing this program has been one of the major accomplishments of this Department over the last seven years, and we are grateful that organizations such as the Harvard Ash Center have recognized its value.”

Secretary Le Blanc also salutes Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington for not only keeping the program in place once he took office, but allowing it to expand to reach more offenders in need of services.

“As law enforcement officers, we see all too often how drugs and alcohol impact the choices people make that lead to their arrests,” said Sheriff Whittington. “Dr. Tucker and her team of psychologists and counselors work tirelessly to rehabilitate those incarcerated with substance abuse problems so they can learn to contribute to their community, not their criminality.”

Since the program moved to Bossier in July 2012, 1,500 offenders have graduated from the nine-month program, and another 600 have graduated from the six-month program.

One of today’s graduates was Dennis Poret, who says he didn’t know what to expect when he entered the program.  He did know, however, that his life was heading in the wrong direction.

“I was tired of living a life plagued by alcoholism, and I desperately needed a change,” Poret said.  “I was willing to do whatever needed to be done to achieve that change.  I can say that I am thankful for the change that the program has brought about.”