The Socorro County Detention Center has been paving the way for inmate rehabilitation with their RISE program, a jail-based community alternatives program. Their recent pumpkin auction has proven to be a boost for the program.

Navigator of the RISE program, Vanessa Garcia, said that giving the participants the opportunity to showcase their skills and earn money was motivating for them. She said that they were excited that their social media posts promoting the pumpkin auction was received with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback.
“The way the community was thanking the detention center and allowing our inmates to feel human, that was amazing,” Vanessa Garcia said.

All the money raised goes straight to the inmates’ accounts and any donations are split evenly among them. Vanessa Garcia believes that giving them a chance to make money is an empowering experience that allows them to gain confidence to make a living outside of jail.

Eddie Garcia, Detention Center administrator, said he has seen how the program has positively impacted the inmates. He said that when inmates show up, often they are severely underweight and show difficult behavior as they struggle with detoxing, but after some time at the detention center, he starts to see a change in them.

“Their whole mindset has changed, not only towards the staff, but with their families, they are building relationships that they’ve lost,” said Eddie Garcia.

If inmates show good behavior for 30 days, they can be considered as a RISE client, depending on space availability. Currently there is room for ten females and ten males. The program offers a variety of services that gives them tools to have a successful life outside of jail. Participants have the opportunity to continue RISE services even after they are released. The transition to the outside world is the most challenging, according to Vanessa Garcia.

The program is in its third year.

“Athena (Gassoumis) is the reason for the RISE program, she applied and got all of this going,” said Vanessa Garcia, “We got the funding and then we weren’t sure what we were doing but we knew we could figure it out,”

Now their program that has a calendar bursting with activities and services is serving as an example for other counties. Vanessa said there are over ten counties who have the RISE program and they come to Socorro for advice.

“It’s really neat that Socorro County, our little county is getting recognized from all over, because we are setting the example,” Vanessa said. “It’s a really good feeling because in the beginning it was so scary, it was hard in the beginning but after we ironed those kinks out everything just started flowing so naturally.”

Eddie Garcia and Vanessa Garcia attribute the success of the program to everyone who’s been involved.

“We could not do all of this if it wasn’t for our volunteers and for my staff because they are a big part of this,” Eddie Garcia said.

Plans for the RISE program include selling ristras, biscochitos, wreaths, and a partnership to involve the participants in beautification projects around town.