SIOUX FALLS, SD -
If you ask Stacie Schroder what her life was like, she will tell you it was pretty typical.
"I was born and raised in a middle-class family with all the family support anyone could ever want or need," Schroder, a former drug addict, said.
Somehow, she ended up in prison twice.
"Everything in life we do is a choice," Schroder said.
Schroder said her choices led to drug addiction. It started slowly when she was in high school and would party with her classmates on the weekends. By 1993, it became a problem. Fast forward to now, she says she's been clean for six years.
"I'm very proud of that. I'm ecstatic about that. You know," Schroder said, holding back tears. "I never thought...I never thought it was possible. It's possible."
This mother of four spent nearly six months at Glory House, a treatment facility in Sioux Falls that is an alternative to prison sentences. It helps people struggling with a number of issues, including drugs and alcohol. Glory House provides counseling, mental health treatment and also allows patients to learn how to live in the community and have jobs.
It is the type of facility that has been in the spotlight recently. Governor Dennis Daugaard recently signed into law a plan to cut the state's prison costs by treating more nonviolent offenders through intensive probation, parole and other programs outside prison walls. It could save millions of tax dollars and avoid building more prison facilities in the coming years. It also has the potential to change lives. Former patient Jerald Simmons said he got the structure he needed at Glory House. It was something he could not find in prison.
"It wasn't good. You're crammed in there with 1,000 other guys. It wasn't good. It's not a place I ever want to go to again," Simmons said.
Schroder said there is a big difference between treatment and punishment behind bars.
"I don't think that's rehabilitating them. What people don't understand is, being an addict, you don't know how to live. You don't know how to live without drugs and alcohol," Schroder said.
Chief Justice David Gilbertson has called the prison system a revolving door for many non-violent drug users. According to Social Services Coordinator Amy Ryan, a big reason why Glory House works as an alternative is because patients are given a risk-level assessment when they come in. From there, counselors can tailor make a care plan to give them the best recovery results.
"It's looking at ten different areas of somebody's life and helps us identify what areas they need to work on and improve so we can decrease their recidivism," Ryan said.
In some cases, treatment facilities give more than just basic needs. Schroder and Simmons both said being able to have a job and earn money gave them reason to live. Normal life is enough to keep Simmons, who committed an internet crime, on a good path.
Brady Mallory: Was prison your rock bottom?
Mallory: What's keeping you from not hitting that again?
Simmons: The thought of going back. It's not a place I ever want to go back to.
As for Schroder, it is her grandson and daughters.
"They don't have to wonder if their mom is coming home anymore. Nor my mom and dad. I'm here," Schroder said.
Daugaard's backing of this reform is just the first step, but it is not all up to our state leaders. As Schroder puts it, the effort will only work if lawmakers are met half way.
"You have to believe in yourself in order to make it through this. If you don't believe in yourself, you're never going to believe in nothing," Schroder said.
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