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Program Hopes To Open Doors For Inmates

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RALEIGH — Nearly 80 percent of women who commit crimes in the United States are substance abusers.The North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh isoffering a pilot program to help inmates kicktheir habits.

The Last Alternative Theraputic Communityof Hope (LATCH) program is aimedat getting female inmates off drugs and back on their feet.

Cheryl Bunch, 42, has been in and out of prison sinceshe was 16 years old.But now, Bunch is nearing the end ofa 10-year sentence. To help her make the transition, she is enrolled inthe LATCH program.

"I just can't understand why I mess up all of the time," she says. "I didn't haveany respect for society, I just didn't care about anything."

The women meet in a group and hold each other accountable for bad behavior. They livetogether, work together and receive counseling and job training.

Thirty-one-year old Sandra Thompson is in the middle of a 20-yearsentence for second-degreemurder and armed robbery. She is also a heroin addict.

"I've always done things my way, I lived my life my way, and it was always the wrong way. The program has given me somehope," Thompson says.

The rules in prison are much different than the rules in the outside world. Gettingout can be scary. The goal of theprogram is to make sure when women cross the line, they can handle it.

"It has given me the tools that I need to go out there in society to stay clean, drug free," says Bunch.

There are 34 women in the program which lasts for 15 months. It includesfollow-up visits for three months after the women arereleased.

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