County Sheriff Mike Wade is one of
the champions of the Back to Basics program.
What follows are some of his comments on the implementation
of this "original" AA format in a prison environment.
with what he saw (inmates spending most of their time watching
TV), Wade went to his staff at the (Henrico) Jail East facility in
New Kent with the idea of turning certain jail blocks, called
pods, into total immersion substance abuse rehabilitation
it a therapeutic community," he said.
Wade also calls it Back to Basics, as does
Alcoholics Anonymous, from which he has borrowed much of his
structure goes back to the beginnings of the AA movement and its
12-step, peer support concept.
jail now has three men's pods using Back to Basics, with a similar
program planned for a women's pod.
Wade met heavy resistance from his staff.
Faced with buzzwords and mumbo jumbo, "the security
staff was totally against it," he said.
But he and the 70 to 100 men who are enrolled (in Back
to Basics) at any one time are life-or-death serious about
what this program means to them.
prisoners consider their incarceration a stroke of good fortune,
but since Back to Basics was introduced, grateful
has become a legitimate description for many in the three pods
being used in the pilot phase of the sheriff's plan.
lower recidivism rate is characteristic of inmates enrolled in the
program," Wade said.
the jail holds 400 inmates. Up
to a quarter of them are in the Back to Basics pods.
(M.) has been sober for nearly 20 years.
He volunteers at the jail and helps facilitate many area AA
programs. He has been
involved in Wade's "therapeutic community" since
a crash course taking people through the steps of AA so they find
recovery from a spiritual rather than a psychological basis,"
John said. "It's
one of those things where they pick up on it or they bail out.
"And very few bail out."
called the program unique. "I
think what really is interesting is the fact that this is the
first systematic approach to apply the principles of AA in a
setting like this," he said.
John has been actively involved in Back
to Basics since the book was first published in 1997.
He is one of the many who are using this
"original" AA meeting format to "Change the
World--One Life at a Time."