Jeremy Vigil reflects on his time spent in Friendship Outreach, a volunteer-run rehabilitative program that works with inmates in Moffat County Jail. Friendship Outreach is helping inmates gradually break free of addiction and crime, program director Neil Folks said.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Jeremy Vigil reflects on his time spent in Friendship Outreach, a volunteer-run rehabilitative program that works with inmates in Moffat County Jail. Friendship Outreach is helping inmates gradually break free of addiction and crime, program director Neil Folks said.

Straight from the soul

Program helps incarcerated find recovery

— Jon and Megan Crook don't deny that their lives together have been rough.

"Recovery is a bumpy road, and we've had our bumps," Jon said.

Megan is charged with multiple offenses, including second-degree attempted murder, two counts of second-degree kidnapping and two counts of second-degree assault, according to the Moffat County Court clerk's office.

She currently is out on bond, Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said.

Jon also has been entangled with the law.

The court clerk's office has six files of felony charges ranging from 2003 to 2005, a clerk said. The employee could not give further details, she said.

Megan and Jon met in Seattle about the same time they became addicted to methamphetamine. Five years ago, they moved to Craig.

Arrests and stints in Moffat County Jail followed about two years later.

But, so did redemption, they said.

The Crooks participated in Friendship Outreach, a volunteer-run rehabilitative program that works with inmates struggling with a host of addictions and offenses.

The program works in partnership with Communities Overcoming Methamphetamine Abuse, a nonprofit organization. Neil Folks acts both as Friendship Outreach director and chairman of the organization's Spiritual Outreach division.

Friendship Outreach is working, despite when inmates don't stay on the straight and narrow, Lt. Dean Herndon, jail administrator, said.

He sees the program making changes inside the jail. The inmates may make a permanent change if they take the lessons they've learned from Folks with them when they leave jail, he said.

He had his reservations when Folks first started the program, Herndon said.

"When people come to jail, they either get real mad or they get religion," he said, adding they usually lose religion when they step outside the jail doors.

But, since Friendship Outreach began, the demeanors and attitudes of its participants have changed for the better, he said.

Violence within the jail has dropped. Any assaults committed within its walls have been perpetrated by inmates who aren't in Friendship Outreach, Herndon said.

Herndon attributed the change to Folks.

"He's kind of fantastic," he said. "He's one of those guys you can tell him anything.

"He can help the ones who want to be helped."

Through Friendship Outreach and Folks' efforts, Jon and Megan said they have been able to make peace with the past, its addiction and its pain.

They've left meth behind, Megan said, after they were released from jail last year.

Friendship Outreach "helped me realize I don't need that stuff," she said.

Friendship Outreach is spiritually based, but not scientific, unlike traditional counseling, Folks said, adding the program is not religious and is not associated with any particular denomination.

And the role he plays in helping inmates recover is not that of a guide, but rather a companion.

The term fits, he said - so much so that he's centered his work on it.

"Companioning is walking with them," he said. "It's not about directing them whatsoever."

Folks thinks the path to reform is often a dark one and can't be traveled in a day.

"There's a lot of stuff in the background the (inmate) has to deal with first," Folks said. "Behavior changes do not happen overnight."

An inmate may return to jail more than once before they overcome addiction or crime, he said.

But, if each period outside of jail gets longer, Folks sees it a sign that they're making progress.

"Transition is happening but it may be slow," Folks said.

In regular sessions, Folks said he helps inmates uncover personal pain and losses -sources he believes drive individuals to substance abuse or a life of crime.

The pain's source may vary from broken families to sexual assault, Folks said.

Friendship Outreach attempts to help inmates move past these and other incidents through ceremonies that symbolize a healing process and providing a sympathetic ear.

The frequency and duration of Folks' sessions with participants depends "on how much they have buried away," Folks said.

"During the first month, I try to stay pretty close to them."

Openly discussing these topics is necessary to breaking free of addiction, Jeremy Vigil said.

Vigil is being held at Moffat County Jail, waiting to face charges for third-degree assault, menacing assault on family with a weapon, crime of violence in violation of a restraining order, second-degree assault on a police officer, false imprisonment and other charges, Herndon said.

He faces charges of second-degree assault of a peace officer, a restraining order violation, indecent exposure, resisting arrest, felony menacing, third-degree assault and first-degree trespassing, court clerk employees said.

His criminal record spans back to 2000.

"When you bring the problem to the surface, you can clean it," Vigil said. "I think a lot of substance abuse problems (are indicative) of some kind of pain in yourself."

In the past, he's been to Alcoholics Anonymous, a recovery support group.

"Friendship Outreach is different because it deals with stuff from the soul," he said. "When the soul is damaged, it's easy to become lonely, lost, depressed, confused."

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