Inmates train to become recovery specialists

Published 2:06 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2024

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Nine inmates at Buckingham Correctional Center recently became the first individuals incarcerated in a Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) facility to receive certification as Peer Recovery Specialists (PRS). 

The inmates were trained using the 72-hour Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services curriculum developed for PRS certification. 

Peer Recovery Specialists are self-identified people with lived experience with a mental health and/or Substance Use Disorder (SUD) who are in successful and ongoing recovery from mental health and/or SUD challenges. Through their experiences, the idea is that specialists can support other inmates, helping them recover as well. Inmates receive compensation for their PRS work. 

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“These Peer Recovery Specialists are able to reach part of the inmate population that would not normally seek out mental health services due to the stigma often associated with treatment,” said Buckingham Correctional Center Mental Health Clinician Supervisor Dr. Autumn Quinn. 


The PRS program aligns with Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Right Help, Right Now initiative. 

Mental Health and Wellness peer recovery programs currently operate at Buckingham Correctional Center, Haynesville Correctional Center, Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, State Farm Correctional Center, and Pocahontas State Correctional Center. 

The SUD PRS initiative started in 2019, when the VADOC began hiring PRS contractors to work with probation and parole districts statewide. In 2023, the initiative expanded to correctional centers, offering the PRS training to inmates at Green Rock Correctional Center, Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, Pocahontas State Correctional Center, State Farm Correctional Center, and Virginia Correctional Center for Women At this time, established Peer Recovery Specialists are operating in some residential SUD programs, with plans to expand the role through additional trainings. 

“I thank the staff at Buckingham who are focused every day on providing opportunities for positive change for people in our care, and I thank these nine inmates for their dedication to helping others in need,” said VADOC Director Chad Dotson