, Muskogee, OK

Local News

July 13, 2014

SUNDAY EXTRA: Women inmates see hope in program

It works through counseling, peer discussions

TAFT —  Sarah Adamson was not ordered by the court to take part in the Helping Women Recover program at Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, but she desperately wanted in the program.

“I had to fight my way in,” said the 39-year-old mother of two, who is in prison on drug-related convictions.

Many of the 950 women in the medium-security facility are there because of drugs, but there are only 20 spots available in the Helping Women Recover program at Eddie Warrior.

“There’s a large need for rehabilitation,” Adamson said.

There are two Helping Women Recover programs at prisons in Oklahoma. The other is at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud. The program has been in use at the Taft prison about five years, said Judith Beck, program director and therapist for the past three years.

Funding for the program is provided not by the state, but by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, a charitable organization based in Tulsa. Beck is employed by the foundation and has more than 20 years experience. At the prison, she is considered a volunteer, she said.

Participants in the program receive intense treatment through group and individual sessions. Each group meets for 16 weeks. Ten of the participants attend morning group sessions, and the others attend in the afternoons, Beck said.

The program is based on treatment models in other states, Beck said.

The program currently includes one therapist, with the support of the Department of Corrections Unit Manager Sandra Gandy and Case Manager Ayesha Gouthier, who also teachers another program, “Thinking for a Change.”

“Helping Women Recover,” a book by Stephanie S. Covington, is the basis for the program, Beck said. The program focuses on domestic violence, relapse prevention and 12 steps.

In addition to counseling, the program offers participants an outlet, the opportunity to talk to each other and know that they are not alone in what they are going through, Beck said.

Successful participation in the program can reduce the length of their prison sentences, she said.

Adamson is faced with a lengthy sentence. Although she has the option of filing for a 12-month review and asking the court to look at her sentence again and release her, she hasn’t decided whether she will do that.

She said she needs to attend the program and wants to get as much out of the program as possible.

“So, when I walk out these doors, I want to walk out with confidence that I’ll never come back,” Adamson said.

The program is giving her “a lot of coping skills,” she said.

She said she is “extremely co-dependent” and takes on too much of everyone else’s problems, then forgets to take care of herself. She turns to drugs as an outlet, she said.

“I tend to make impulsive decisions without thinking about the consequences,” she said. “That’s what we’re working on. That’s one of my treatment goals.”

She said she is interested in the program’s intense relapse program “because I’ve had long periods of sobriety. So my biggest fear is relapse, and that’s something I need to understand. That way I don’t have to go through this again.”

Adamson, whose daughter is 23 and son is 13, believes the program is helping her. She said she believes her son thinks so too. During a recent visit with his mother, he told her she looked different.  

“He told me that I had a light in my eyes that wasn’t there the last time he saw me,” she said. “That made me feel so good inside.”

Amber Sweet believes the program saved her life. She, too, is serving time at Eddie Warrior on drug-related charges. As part of her prison sentence, she was ordered to participate in the Helping Women Recover program.

According to her conditions of her sentence, once Sweet successfully completes the program, she will be going home to McAlester. The 24-year-old mother of four girls, ages 5, 4, 3 and 1, is scheduled for release in September.

Sweet said she is learning how to deal with issues that caused her to become involved in drugs. When she is released, she will have other issues to face.

She is learning how to handle a traumatic event in her life that occurred about three years ago — her 3-month-old daughter was murdered in 2011.

“This program, it helps you in many different ways,” she said. “It gets to the very bottom of what started your addiction.”

She said the program is giving her the skills to be a better person and to learn she doesn’t have to use drugs to deal with pain and grieving.

She also has received skills to help her deal with issues at home.

The program has taught her the word “no” is in her vocabulary, “and I need to learn how to say it and walk away,” she said.

Reach Anita Reding at (918) 684-2903 or

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