PALMETTO (FOX 13) - Manatee County deputies want to cut down on the number of times one person passes through their jail. They're doing it by battling drug and alcohol abuse.
There is a new recovery pod for inmates and some are volunteering to take the life-changing step.
One such inmate, Michael Candito, knows he has made many mistakes in life.
"I have done everything from robbed to tie people up in their house. I thought I was untouchable," he said.
Candito said drugs were his downfall. He was in and out of the Manatee County jail. During one visit, he found a flier asking for volunteers to join the alcohol and drug recovery pod.
"The old me said, 'don't even look at it. I don't want that.' I would just lie, kick it and slide about my old business," he said.
After 14 arrests, however, he decided enough was enough.
"I looked in the mirror and I said, 'wow. I don't want this in my life,'" he said.
Now, he shares a jail pod with 30 other male inmates. They go to recovery meetings, participate in faith-based activities and go through the daily jail routine.
A separate pod for female inmates houses 21 women.
Inmates stay an average of 60 days in the program.
Just like the inmates who chose to be placed in the pod, deputies also volunteer to be assigned to the recovery pod. Many hope they can make a difference.
"We went around to each squad and asked deputies who wanted to be involved in this program how they felt about it. We thought if they did not believe in what we were trying to promote here, it would be counter-productive to the inmates," said Lt. Yvonne Ingersoll.
The goal is to give inmates the tools they need to succeed on the outside, so they will never have to come back. The program is supported by more than 100 volunteers, plus guidance from the Salvation Army.
"Our whole idea is, let's change the belief system so you can believe differently about yourself, and about life," said David Sutton, director of services at the Salvation Army.
Once the inmates step out of their pods for the last time, the support of deputies and volunteers will follow them.
"I wanted this. I cannot go back to my old life. I cannot go back. It was all pain and misery, but now I have God in my life. I don't even feel like this is jail," said Candito.