After two years behind bars, Stacy McIntosh wants to leave the street life behind him.
“If I sell anything, it’ll be insurance,” he said.
McIntosh, 48, is out of the Hall County Correctional Institute and back with his family after participating in the county’s Re-entry Accountability Court Transition Program.
The program, brainchild of Warden Walt Davis, provides low-level, nonviolent offenders job training and drug addiction counseling in hopes of reducing recidivism.
McIntosh was incarcerated on charges related to selling drugs, when he said he was trying to “make fast money.”
“My family means more to me than selling drugs,” he said.
The first inmates in the program arrived in Hall County last March. At first, McIntosh said, impatience and distractions from the general inmate population became some of the hardest parts of the program.
“People will try to start things, trouble with you to get you to retaliate on that and cause you to try and fight, knowing that if you fight you’ll get kicked out of the program,” he said. “Sometimes you got to just throw your hands up and tell them they win. Walk away.”
In six months, Davis said he hopes to move the program’s participants into a separate dorm facility.
“That will allow us to have them kind of isolated and segregated from the general population,” Davis said.
The separation, Davis said, prevents such distractions and creates a space for individuals sharing the same goals.
While three participants are now on parole, three others have been removed from the program for rule violations. Removal from the program resulted from two instances of testing positive for methamphetamine in the past two months.
The second instance occurred Feb. 16. During the winter weather when the three were drinking and using drugs, Davis said.
“When they didn’t show up for their ride, we started investigating. When they showed up at the transitional center, they tested positive for methamphetamine,” Davis said.
All REACT participants go through drug and addiction counseling as a part of the three-phase process. The prevalence of drugs on the outside, however, can prove difficult for some to stay sober, Davis said.
“Maybe we didn’t prepare them well enough to say ‘no’ at this point,” he said.
The $50,000 Residential Substance Abuse Program grant awarded in December provides a more intensive and structured treatment program.
“We’re going to have some stumbles,” Davis said. “It’s a program where you have to maintain the integrity of the program. At the same time, I can’t allow these guys to get away with violating the rules.”
One participant previously profiled in The Times, Brian Forrester, was dismissed from the program Monday, Davis said.
Forrester’s father Harry saw all of his son’s work and progress slip away.
“He had worked down there for six months and going to school everyday and working, and all at once just let a few minutes mess his life up again,” Harry Forrester said.
Harry Forrester said his son seemed tired everyday from the program’s rigor with a full schedule of work and classes.
“It’s rough on anybody, let alone someone like a prisoner,” Harry Forrester said.
He will always love his son, Harry Forrester said, but added that he won’t go back to see him in prison.
“It broke our heart again, but we’ve had our heart broken a lot of times on account of him,” he said.
McIntosh warns the younger generations, including his 10-year-old son Jordan, of the dangers of the “negative lifestyle.”
“It’s easy to get in trouble, but it’s hard to get out,” he said.
Jordan said his father has done everything possible to keep him safe, happy to have him back at home.
“It was scary for him being gone, and I just wish he was here that whole time,” Jordan said.
McIntosh works now as a robot welder at Alba Form in Flowery Branch, a company that produces car seat frames, while working toward his GED.
“I suggest to anybody that’s coming through that program that they keep their head up, keep your nose clean and they can achieve their goals that they’re trying to achieve,” McIntosh said.